• Welcome Hoop Ball readers another edition of The Week Ahead!

    Now that the All-Star break is behind us, I will take a look at four bold predictions for the rest of the season:

    1. The Pelicans will catch the Grizzlies for the eighth seed in the West. I believe that the Pelicans are a much better team with Zion Williamson on the floor and the remainder of the season will prove that.
    2. The Pistons do not win 25 games. The Pistons currently have 19 wins and are in my opinion the worst team in the NBA.  I do not believe that they will even win six games of their remaining schedule.
    3. Markieff Morris turns out to be the better brother due to their respective situations. I think that Markieff will have a larger role with the Lakers and will see more opportunities than Marcus Morris will with the Clippers.  We could see the narrative change that Markieff is the better brother.
    4. The Bucks win 70 games. This is not exactly bold, but I do believe we will see our first team win 70 games since the 2015-16 Warriors won 73 games.  The Bucks are a great team and even manage to win games when Giannis Antetokounmpo sits, so it is difficult to see how they don’t win 70 games.

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    4 games: 76ers, Bucks, Cavs, Clippers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Magic, Mavs, Nets, Suns, Warriors, Wizards, Wolves

    3 games: Celtics, Jazz, Nuggets, Pacers, Pelicans, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Thunder, Trail Blazers

    2 games: Bulls, Spurs

    Best Schedule: 76ers (Hawks, at Cavs, Knicks, at Clippers)

    The 76ers have two home games and two road games in this four-game week.  They are playing three of the worst teams in the East before heading to Los Angeles to play the Clippers.  They should be able to easily escape this week with a 3-1 record.  With Ben Simmons likely out for the week, look for Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson and Joel Embiid to dominate.  The 76ers are fighting for homecourt advantage in the East, so an easy week like this one will surely help them out.

    Worst Schedule: Pelicans (at Lakers, Cavs, Lakers)

    The Pelicans are playing the best team in the Western Conference for two of their three games this week, which means that they can likely finish the week at no better than 1-2. They are playing the Cavs in their second game of the week, so that should be a win.  However, the Pelicans are trying to stay alive for the eighth seed in the West, so a week in which they play the Lakers twice does not help them at all.  Keep Zion Williamson, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Derrick Favors locked into all lineups.

    Game of the Week: Clippers at Nuggets on Friday at 10:30 PM ET

    The second and third seed in the Western Conference will face off in what should be a competitive matchup on Friday night.  They are fighting for seeding and want to prove that they can beat the top-tier teams in the league.  The Nuggets just pushed the Lakers to an extremely close game before the All-Star break, so this could be another thrilling game.  It will be interesting to see if Nikola Jokic can expose the Clippers’ weakness at center.  Tune in on Friday night!

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Trevor Ariza- Although he had an awful game on Sunday night, Ariza is a lock for middle-round value due to his sharpshooting and steals.  He is a top-70 option in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks, with averages of 8.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.  After having a rocky start to the year with the Kings, Ariza is settled into a starting role and should be a consistent middle-round asset.  Pick him up in all formats.  

    Jae Crowder- With his new team, Crowder has a similar role to the one that he had on the Grizzlies.  He is a top-100 asset on the season, so he was always worth owning in standard formats.  However, he is a top-15 asset in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks and has settled in nicely with the Heat rotation.  In his last four games with the Heat, he is averaging 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3 triples, and 2.3 steals per game in 26.5 minutes per game.  He should be owned in all formats as he should return no less than top-100 value for the rest of the season.

    Daniel Theis- Theis has gotten hot as of late and is a top-50 option in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks.  In his last four games, he is averaging 16 points and 9.8 rebounds on 65.7-percent shooting.  He has been receiving the lion’s share of the minutes at Center as Enes Kanter is averaging just 10.6 minutes per game over the last four games.  Theis should be owned in all formats as he seems to be a lock for top-100 value for the rest of the season.  

    Injury Report

    Ben Simmons (back) will undergo further testing on his back before a timeline in revealed.  He is currently listed as day-to-day, but there is a chance that this could be more serious than originally anticipated.  Look out for Simmons’ status throughout the week.  

    Kyrie Irving (shoulder surgery) will be out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery on the same shoulder that held him out for 26 games.  Spencer Dinwiddie will continue to carry the load on offense as the Nets hope to cling to the 7th or 8th seed in the East.  

    Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist) will be reevaluated in two weeks after getting a second opinion that revealed he has a fractured left wrist.  D’Angelo Russell will have to carry the load while KAT is out, but Naz Reid will also get a boost in minutes.

    Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee sprain) will be out for at least two weeks with a left knee sprain.  He will be reevaluated at the end of two weeks and could miss even more time.  Brandon Clarke should see an expanded role in his absence.

    Here are the guys currently listed as day-to-day:

    De’Andre Hunter, Kemba Walker, Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., Luke Kornet, Kevin Love, Luka Doncic, Willie Cauley-Stein, Draymond Green, Victor Oladipo, Jeremy Lamb, Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Justise Winslow, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Brook Lopez, D’Angelo Russell, Mitchell Robinson, Elfrid Payton, Tobias Harris, Deandre Ayton, Aron Baynes, Dario Saric, Damian Lillard, Marc Gasol

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

    Thanks for reading this week’s edition of The Week Ahead!

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