• Welcome back to another edition of The Week Ahead! Managers of Kawhi Leonard could not be reached for comment, so this week’s question is, “Can Norman Powell return to form?” One could argue that those two names are interchangeable at the moment. Maybe this is the week that we get some clarity.

    Before we look ahead at next week, let’s take a moment to reflect on what we’ve already seen: the Jazz are turning Danny Ainge into a meme by winning when they should be losing, while the higher aspirations of teams like the Heat, Lakers and Nets haven’t resulted in positive outcomes yet. Only one of these teams ostensibly wants to be in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, but it’s not them at the bottom of the standings. Check on your friends that cheer for some of the league’s premier teams. They might be feeling a little down. For that matter, there may be some sickos in Utah that feel the same way.

    It wasn’t so long ago that we were talking about last year’s rookie class and where it ranked among the all-time draft classes. Is it too early, then, for us to submit the 2022 NBA Draft class for consideration? Between Bennedict Mathurin and Paolo Banchero, we have already had our fair share of highlight performances. That is to say nothing of the intrigue of players like Jabari Smith Jr., Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, Jalen Williams, Keegan Murray and Walker Kessler, who have all had notable games in the early season. Rostering rookies can be a tricky proposition in fantasy hoops, but there’s no shortage of players to consider who are providing real value right now. The sky is the limit for this class and yours truly is particularly excited about the forward-center core. Move over, guards: the era of the big man is at hand!

    The fantasy spotlight is shining on a few different players and teams this week, but it’s certainly not going to be going anywhere near Haliburton, Mathurin and Co. with the Pacers. Five teams will finish their weekly schedule on the same day the Pacers play their second–and final–game of the week, so it’s better for managers to focus their attention on squads like the Bulls, Clippers and Nets. Speaking of the Nets: Kyrie Irving is was a top-3 trending topic and fantasy basketball producer this week. One is likely to outweigh the other before long. Coach Nash must be glad to have the steady Seth Curry and Joe Harris back in the mix. Several players gained momentum this week for entirely basketball-related reasons, including Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Bol Bol, Brook Lopez, Jaylen Nowell, Jordan Clarkson, Mitchell Robinson and Trey Murphy, who are all worth consideration in standard leagues, if you’re lucky enough to find them on the wire. 

    What goes up must come down, so managers might want to consider how much they value certain players and teams that are trending in the wrong direction right now. Everything looks pretty good on the outside with Luka Doncic, but the Mavs have a losing record, and who else is really giving positive fantasy value in a two-game week? I bet there’s going to be a major buy-low window on Christian Wood very soon, while it may be advisable to explore other options than the remaining Mavs rotation players, such as Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr.

    Blazers fans seem content with the Jerami Grant trade so far, but he produced below-average numbers in every category this week and was outside the top-150 in 9-category per-game value. Fantasy managers that drafted Grant or Ben Simmons are probably feeling pretty agreeable to trade talks right now. Ditto for standard league end-of-bench players like Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, Immanuel Quickley, Isaiah Jackson, Joe Harris and John Konchar, who may not be able to net a positive return right now and could be on the outside looking in soon. 

    Everyone is probably going to have a full starting lineup on Wednesday and Friday this week, so the major takeaway for the week ahead should be to focus on filling gaps on the other days. In particular, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday should net the most competitive returns in head-to-head formats. Remember, managers: streaming the end of your bench allows you to maximize your games played totals and get an extra edge simply by raw numbers. It’s always worth considering in leagues that don’t have a games cap. Get those numbers up!

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Mavs, Nuggets, Pacers
    Three Games: Hawks, Celtics, Cavs, Pistons, Warriors, Rockets, Lakers, Heat, Wolves, Pelicans, Knicks, Thunder, Magic, Sixers, Suns, Blazers, Kings, Spurs
    Four Games: Nets, Hornets, Bulls, Clippers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards

    Back-to-Backs

    Monday-Tuesday: Nets

    Tuesday-Wednesday: Bulls, Heat

    Wednesday-Thursday: None

    Thursday-Friday: Warriors

    Friday-Saturday: Celtics, Nets, Hornets, Bucks, Wolves, Pelicans, Knicks, Suns, Blazers

    Saturday-Sunday: None

    Sunday-Monday (Week Four): Bulls, Cavs, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards

    Schedule Maximizers

    Managers can take their favorite Pacers streamer into Monday night, but prepare to move on immediately afterwards. No matter who’s at the bottom of your roster, the play should be to flip them for a player that can get some extra weak schedule days. The Warriors, Thunder and Magic have the best schedule for managers looking to fill spots on Tuesday and Thursday, since they’re active for both weak schedule days. The Warriors have an added bonus of a back-to-back for Thursday-Friday, but that Friday game is only valuable if there’s space in the starting lineup. With a 12-game slate, it’s not likely that anyone will need to be streaming on Friday. There’s no Saturday-Sunday back-to-back games, so managers can look for the best player available going into the weekend. If that player is active on Saturday, they’ll be playing on a busier schedule day but could potentially be flipped that night for a player to start on the four-game Sunday. There are eight teams that have a Sunday-Monday back-to-back, but I’ll be targeting Wizards players specifically for an extra edge on the Week Four slate, when they are likely to tie with the Sixers as the team with the best schedule.

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

    With four games on the horizon, including two weak schedule days, an early-week back-to-back and a back-to-back leading into the next week, the Bulls have this week on lock. Lonzo Ball remains out, Zach LaVine is still working through injury management, Ayo Dosunmu has been banged-up a few times lately and Andre Drummond enters the week with left shoulder concerns. In other words: he who is healthy should be productive on this squad. DeMar DeRozan should be able to build on his momentum from crossing the 20,000 points threshold this past week, while Nikola Vucevic may continue to see more 35-plus minute games like he did on Saturday. I’m expecting to see both players make a difference this week. Following the recent minutes allocation, Alex Caruso’s rostership should surge this week, while it’s possible that we also get a longer look at Coby White, Javonte Green and Patrick Williams before making a judgement call on whether they’re standard league-worthy. 

    Worst Schedule: Pacers (@Nets, vs. Heat)

    There’s not much to say here. They play on Monday and then they play on Friday. We won’t see them again until Monday of the next week, in which they have a measly three-game schedule. I’m out a lot of players from the Pacers for the foreseeable future. Perhaps I will form a support group for managers of Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner, Jalen Smith, Bennedict Mathurin and Buddy Hield. Managers of anyone in this group might need a shoulder to cry on once their respective wells run dry. Consider me a skeptic of anyone I didn’t name, with apologies to the intriguing Isaiah Jackson.

    Game of the Week: Blazers @ Suns on Friday, November 4, 2022 or Saturday, November 5, 2022

    That’s right folks: we get a back-to-back of two of the West’s best teams. Aside from competing for pride’s sake on the first night, there is the added incentive of a revenge game for the loser. It just so happens that both have high-powered offenses and fluid rotations at the moment, so there should be opportunities for managers to find extra value in these matchups if their players are active. While Damian Lillard sitting out will dampen the mood for both games, it’s likely that we’ll see some extra looks going to the Anfernee Simons-Jerami Grant-Jusuf Nurkic trio, while Josh Hart should hopefully be freed from the NBA Concussion Protocols by that point and be able to return to standard league production.

    On the Suns side, everyone is already starting to look for the short-term replacement for Deandre Ayton in the Suns’ vaunted pick-and-roll attack. It’s a toss-up between Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale, but the numbers seem to favor Biyombo so far. Regardless of who plays, it’s a sure thing that there will be lots of open looks and points scored in any matchup featuring Chris Paul and Devin Booker. With other intriguing depth pieces like Cam Johnson, Justise Winslow, Nassir Little and Shaedon Sharpe on both sides, it’s likely that we’ll see some nice counting stats coming out of these contests and any number of players that could produce them.

    Quick Adds

    Alex Caruso, PG/SG, Chicago Bulls

    Remember what I said about the Bulls’ schedule and their banged-up roster? That sounds like a great recipe for a strong week from the fan-favorite, Caruso. If you know who he is, then you know what he does, and he does it pretty darn well. Managers in need of assists, steals and treys could certainly do worse than Caruso in most weeks, but the schedule favors him this time around. Teams that can take a hit in points and field goal percentage can definitely stream the Carushow into their lineups for the week ahead.

    Bol Bol, PF/C, Orlando Magic

    Who doesn’t like a shot-blocking stretch big? To say nothing of his 7’2” frame, it feels like there’s no shortage of reasons to consider rostering Bol Bol this year, between his steadily-increasing playing time, improved decision-making and very fantasy-friendly game. Bol Bol is like the Diet Coke of NBA unicorns right now, and he’s young enough that he might just become the real thing sooner than later. The second-generation big put up sixth round value over the past week and isn’t showing any signs of slowing. He offers the blocks, boards and field goal percentage that will help traditional “big man stats” teams, while also demonstrating an aptitude for shooting and scoring that can support guard-oriented squads. He’s probably rostered in all competitive leagues, but he shouldn’t be on any waivers at this point.

    Marcus Morris, PF/C, Los Angeles Clippers

    Morris recently rejoined the team after taking some time off for personal reasons. Before that hiatus, the small-ball five was on a real tear and putting up clear standard league value. In fact, his averages still suggest that he’s in the top-50 to top-75 range. While that’s unlikely to be the case for much longer, the fact remains that Morris is a serviceable big with a guard-like statistical profile that can really help certain teams. There’s not much going on here in terms of assists, blocks or boards, but Morris isn’t afraid to call his own number, leaving an outside shot at above-average points and threes production whenever he gets hot. It’s probably helpful to get in on his above-average field goal percentage before it regresses to the norm. Among center-eligible players, only the absolute best-of-the-best rank ahead of him for free throw percentage value. There’s a schedule-based reason to pick him up, aside from the obvious statistical benefits. He’s certainly going to get the playing time.

    Will Barton, SG/SF, Washington Wizards

    This one comes with a disclaimer: I am not a fan of what Barton brings to the table in fantasy. However, the fact remains that he has consistently been a top-125 option over recent years and is currently performing at that level. I tend to believe that we’ll see Corey Kispert and Deni Avdija as the key swingmen on this team in the very near future, so I hesitate to recommend a high-usage, low-efficiency player like Barton with that in mind. Avdija has already inserted himself into the regular rotation, while the sweet-shooting Kispert is due to return and was averaging 30-plus minutes from February onwards last season. Until I see more consistent production from the younger players, Barton gets the nod as the most trustworthy streamer for the Wizards’ upcoming slate of games. Managers in need of points, treys, assists and steals can look his way. He’s also currently making half of the shots he takes, but there’s no precedent for that in his NBA history, so any field goal percentage gains would simply be icing on the cake.

    Honorable Mention: Bismack Biyombo (C, Suns), Caleb Martin (SF/PF, Heat), De’Anthony Melton (PG/SG, Sixers), Dennis Smith Jr. (PG, Hornets), Jalen Williams (SG/SF, Thunder), Jalen McDaniels (SF/PF, Hornets) Jordan Clarkson (PG/SG, Jazz), Kevin Huerter (SG/SF, Kings) and Royce O’Neale (SG/SF, Nets)

    Injury Report

    Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee) Injured on April 23, 2022. Out on Sunday.

    Malcolm Brogdon (back) Injured on October 29, 2022. Questionable for Sunday.

    LaMelo Ball (left ankle) Injured on October 10, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Terry Rozier (right ankle) Injured on October 20, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Cody Martin (left quadriceps) Injured on October 19, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Andre Drummond (left shoulder) – Injured on October 29, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Ayo Dosunmu (back) – Injured on October 29, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Darius Garland (left eye laceration) – Injured on October 19, 2022. Out for Sunday.

    Donte Divincenzo (left hamstring) – Injured on October 23, 2022. To be re-evaluated in early November.

    Bruno Fernando (left knee) – Injured on October 21, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Myles Turner (left ankle) – Injured on October 29, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Kawhi Leonard (right knee) – Injured on October 25, 2022. Day-to-day.

    Victor Oladipo (left knee) – Injured on October 17, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Josh Giddey (right ankle sprain) – Injured on October 23, 2022. Day-to-day.

    Cole Anthony (ribs) – Injured on October 26, 2022. Out indefinitely.

    Jalen Suggs (right ankle) – Injured on October 19, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Deandre Ayton (left ankle) – Injured on October 28, 2022. To be re-evaluated in one week.

    Damian Lillard (right calf) – Injured on October 25, 2022. To be re-evaluated in mid-November.

    Gary Payton II (abdomen) – Injured on July 15, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Josh Hart (concussion) – Injured on October 28, 2022. Day-to-day.

    Devin Vassell (left knee) – Injured on October 24, 2022. Out for Sunday.

    Delon Wright (right hamstring) – Injured on October 25, 2022. Out for 6-to-8 weeks.

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