• Another week brings another edition of The Week Ahead! We’re getting into the home stretch in head-to-head leagues, as Week Seventeen marks one of the last non-playoff weeks in most leagues. Seventeen is a special number in the NBA. It’s the number of championships won by the NBA’s two marquee franchises, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Behind Jayson Tatum’s perennially-elite production, one is already a contender, but can the other team still get there this season? Fortune seemed to be smiling on the Lakers after Kyrie Irving demanded a trade this week, but the Mavs quickly swooped in and acquired the polarizing superstar in exchange for Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie and some assets with no fantasy relevance. The pressure is already on for Rob Pelinka to help save the Lakers season and maximize LeBron’s competitive window, so Sunday’s trade will only serve to amplify that noise. All that is certain for the Lakers anymore is that King James will become the league’s all-time leading scorer this season, but there should be lots of excitement around and speculative adds of any rotation-level shooters the Lakers acquire this week, if any.

    Irving is now a Maverick and his union with Luka Doncic is sure to intimidate opposing defenses every night. With arguably less help than ever before, Doncic has already been terrorizing the league all season and carrying the Mavs to victories by force of will some nights. Any future attempts to stifle his attack will now carry the risk of leaving one of the most dangerous shooters and slashers in NBA history open. Both players figure to be early round producers in every game they play. It’s unlikely that the loss of Dinwiddie yields any negative outcomes that Irving can’t compensate for, but the Mavs defense was already starting to look too porous before subtracting an anchor like Finney-Smith. Though he won’t be able to stop the bleeding, this trade does seem to create enough of an opportunity for Josh Green to be an asset in deeper formats. Alongside third option Christian Wood, Green and the other Mavs should find progressively easier looks as the team coalesces around Doncic and Irving.

    There’s a clear top-three in the Eastern Conference now that the Nets are expected to fall out of the running. Right behind the Celtics are two teams that have won nine of their last ten games, the Bucks and Sixers. Giannis Antetokounmpo has played seven games since returning from injury and the Bucks have won them all while their star registered no less than 29 points or 12 boards each night. Free throws and turnovers keep the Greek Freak off the top-12 fantasy pedestal that fellow MVP candidate Joel Embiid occupies, but he outproduced Embiid if those two categories are taken out of the equation. The results were all the same for the Sixers, who got a revenge win on the second half of a back-to-back with the Magic before blowing out the Spurs. 

    In the Western Conference and arguably around the league, it’s no question who’s the center of attention: Nikola Jokic. All of the Eastern Conference titans are still trying to unseat the two-time reigning MVP, which will be hard as long as the Nuggets are on top of their conference. The Joker’s best running mates, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., seem to be returning to pre-injury form, while rumors indicate that the Nuggets could be buyers at the deadline as they look to consolidate talent around their core players. The odd man out in Denver seems to be Bones Hyland, who could be an interesting buy-low candidate if traded to a team that will reliably give him 20-plus minutes. 

    As they try to keep pace with the Nuggets, reports indicate that the Grizzlies and Pelicans are in a bidding war over OG Anunoby. Both young teams seem to feel they are able to contend this year and it looks like they want to do it at a faster rate than the other. Right now, the advantage goes to the Grizzlies in the standings, who are dealing with a couple recent losses despite All-Stars Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. ranking within the top-20 in fantasy production over the past week. The Pelicans record fell to .500 after tough losses to Jokic’s Nuggets and the Mavs, but the recently-returned Brandon Ingram looked great in a win over the Lakers. The Pelicans have a remarkably productive supporting cast to support Zion Williamson who could return in time to take his place as an All-Star starter in mid-February.

    If either of these teams successfully add another elite piece to their puzzle before Thursday’s trade deadline, they could be disruptors in the championship race. If one or more of the countless quality streaming options rostered by both squads are traded into equal-or-greater roles with new teams, then I will be one of the first to pick up the likes of Brandon Clarke, Herb Jones, John Konchar, Jose Alvarado, Larry Nance Jr., Santi Aldama, Trey Murphy III and Tyus Jones.

    Enough about the trade deadline buyers and the winners of the league: what about the suffering squads and the sellers? The Jazz are doing better than expected but by all accounts, they’re not trying to. Recent wins over the lowly Hornets and Raptors, coupled with a victory over the Doncic-less Mavs last weekend, have allowed the Jazz to stay in the playoff race, but rumors suggest that they’re looking to move Jarred Vanderbilt and other role players. The boards and steals specialist could be acquired by a team looking to shore up their playoff rotation, as could veterans like Malik Beasley and Mike Conley. It’s likely that any trade sends these players to a team with a specific need for their skills, which should set a secure floor of value and leave their fantasy value largely unaltered.

    The Spurs are losing everything lately and it seems like Jakob Poeltl could be on the move, which should either sustain or improve his fantasy value. Unfortunately, it’s less clear if any potential standard league assets would come back in exchange, leaving ever more on the shoulders of Keldon Johnson and Tre Jones while Devin Vassell remains sidelined. Veteran Josh Richardson is being shopped as well, but it’s unlikely that this helps his fantasy stock or that anything other than more playing time for Jeremy Sochan comes out of this eventuality for the Spurs. Some late-career players like Eric Gordon and Jae Crowder could also be wearing new uniforms shortly, but fantasy managers shouldn’t expect either to return to their previous standard league values for more than a few games at a time. Neither man is really holding anyone back in their respective rotations, so it’s unlikely that anyone will need to read much into their trades. 

    After going 5-for-5 with last week’s Quick Adds, I’m feeling confident moving into Week Seventeen. The stars of the bunch were Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Trey Murphy III, who both hovered around the top-75. Caldwell-Pope is now dealing with an ankle injury, so his short-term value may be limited, but Murphy is still a staple in the Pelicans lineup and remains a safe pickup most weeks. Unfortunately, the Pelicans only have two games lined up this week, so Murphy is going to be sent back to the wire in lots of formats. Cole Anthony and Larry Nance Jr. both finished within the top-100 for the week and Anthony in particular rewarded managers who were patient with his struggles this past Monday. At 20-plus minutes a night since mid-January, Nance seems to have the more secure floor of the two, but Anthony might be the better option for Week Seventeen. Lastly, Immanuel Quickley continues to get major playing time for the Knicks and is contributing a little bit of everything but defense and shooting percentages whenever he plays. Fantasy squads looking for the classic counting stats -points, rebounds and assists- could certainly do worse than Quickley. 

    Most of the league plays three times this week as schedulers surely anticipated some inconsistent availability around the trade deadline and the All-Star break. There aren’t going to be many players on standard league wires that will prove to be worth adding and holding throughout the week unless some new opportunity is created for them. Most teams have a three-day window of relevance that should make any number of players be worthwhile additions, depending on needs. When it comes to streaming, there isn’t going to be as clear of an advantage with the four-game teams in a week with so much uncertainty. Be sure to tune into the SportsEthos NBA Trade Deadline show to find out which players will give you the extra edge after everything is said and done. 

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Pelicans

    Three Games: Hawks, Hornets, Nuggets, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Wolves, Knicks, Thunder, Magic, Sixers, Suns, Blazers, Raptors, Wizards

    Four Games: Celtics, Nets, Bulls, Cavs, Mavs, Pistons, Kings, Spurs, Jazz


    Monday-Tuesday: Nets, Bulls, Thunder

    Tuesday-Wednesday: Wolves

    Wednesday-Thursday: None

    Thursday-Friday: Bucks, Suns

    Friday-Saturday: Hornets, Cavs, Mavs, Pacers, Heat, Knicks, Sixers, Kings, Spurs, Jazz

    Saturday-Sunday: None

    Sunday-Monday (Week Eighteen): None

    Schedule Maximizers

    This week, I’m recommending that managers save as many moves as possible until Thursday. Sixteen teams will play twice by Wednesday, so one good move should be sufficient to get some short-term value before seeing where everyone ends up after the trade deadline. By Thursday night, it should be clear who the best pickup targets are and managers should be sure they have space to make at least two moves, if needed: a stash and a stream. Some fortunate teams will be able to add a player with clear rest of season value after the dust settles, but that’s no reason for them to give up a games played advantage as we come down the stretch for fantasy playoffs. The best player available should be picked up on Thursday, while another move would ideally be used on one of the ten Friday-Saturday back-to-backs. 

    In a week where most teams play three times with a day between them, there will be a limited amount of long-stream options. Early targets will undoubtedly be the Bulls, Thunder and Nets, especially in the wake of the Irving trade. Though the three-game Thunder don’t belong in this group, the other four-game teams won’t really see a competitive advantage over the rest of the league until the trade deadline passes, so nothing extra is gained by adding Cavs, Mavs, Pistons, Kings, Spurs and Jazz players on Monday. Lots of player valuations will likely change over the next week, so it’s advisable for managers to hold back and take stock of new faces in new places before making too many early week moves. In fact, any number of teams can offer as much streaming value in a four-day period as some of the teams with more games total, including the Pacers (Weds.-Sat.), Heat (Weds.-Sat.), Wolves (Tues.-Fri.), Sixers (Weds.-Sat.) and Suns (Tues.-Fri.).  With so much uncertainty in the upcoming week, it may not be clear where the best value lies until we get some breaking news. Managers should take a best player available approach and make a series of short-term moves this week.

    Best Schedule: Chicago Bulls (vs. Spurs, at Grizzlies, at Nets, at Cavs)

    There were a few teams in the running here but it came down to the Bulls and Cavs. Both teams have four games with back-to-backs in each of their respective schedules, but the Bulls get more games out of the way before the trade deadline. That should give managers a chance to get some earlier production in and potentially make a post-deadline move without much dropoff. For what it’s worth, I also prefer the Bulls rotation for fantasy purposes. The real reason that both teams were here instead of the others is that they’re both headed for five games in Week Eighteen, which will drastically increase the value of their players versus the field. With three games by Thursday, potential trades on the horizon, and an incredible long-stream opportunity, Bulls players are justifiably going to surge in rostership in the next seven days. In standard leagues, I’ll be focusing on the same targets that I always recommend -more on that below- but I’ll also be more inclined to pick up Andre Drummond and Coby White in deeper formats. 

    Worst Schedule: New Orleans Pelicans (vs. Hawks, vs. Cavs)

    The two-game team usually ends up here by default, and the Pelicans are no exception. If their games were closer together, there might be some short-term streaming appeal here, but managers of key Pelicans players are likely going to be in for a tough week. As indicated earlier, this week’s schedule will likely be the doom of Larry Nance Jr., Trey Murphy III and any other Pelicans not named Ingram, McCollum, Valanciunas or Williamson in 12-team formats. At least they’ve got four games in Week Eighteen.

    Game of the Week: Grizzlies at Celtics on February 12, 2023

    Two of the league’s premier teams face off on a day with only two games. Ja Morant and Jayson Tatum have are among the most popular players in the NBA and their respective franchises are among the betting favorites for championship hardware. While the Celtics have claimed their spot by beating conference rivals at a nearly 2-to-1 rate, the Grizzlies have actually put up a losing record against Western Conference foes and have staked their reputation on their ability to beat up on Eastern Conference squads.

    Quick Adds

    Alex Caruso, PG/SG, Chicago Bulls

    Disclaimer: Caruso is dealing with day-to-day foot discomfort. If he is ruled out for Monday against the Spurs, I’m likely to shift my attention to Ayo Dosunmu instead. Regardless, the point is that the Bulls have a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back and two productive point guards who are widely available in fantasy leagues. Caruso has the higher ceiling of the two, thanks to his specialized production in steals with passable assists and treys, but nobody should be surprised if Dosunmu puts up a flashier line with solid points, shooting percentages and treys. With the Bulls rumored to be sellers at the trade deadline, Caruso could see his opportunities increase in Chicago or elsewhere, as the fan favorite guard has now cemented himself as one of the NBA’s premier perimeter defenders and could find a role on any team. If he sticks with the Bulls, Caruso has week-long streaming appeal with four games slated between Monday and Saturday. 

    Cam Thomas, SG/SF, Brooklyn Nets

    Thomas did his best Kyrie Irving impression after news broke that the Nets star wanted a trade and would miss Saturday against the Wizards. The sophomore guard was scoring at will from all over the floor and using his offensive gravity to set up scoring opportunities for teammates. In a sense, you could say it’s not a surprise: we’ve seen this before. In fact, it’s almost become Thomas’ reputation that he is the one that will step up when the Nets stars sit down. Well, now it looks like that once-in-awhile opportunity might become more permanent. Dinwiddie may steal some of Thomas’ shine but he may not suit up right away and there may be no putting the cat back in the bag if Thomas doesn’t stop rolling. 

    Kelly Olynyk, PF/C, Utah Jazz

    One thing seems sure ahead of the trade deadline: the Jazz trade someone. It could be Olynyk, or he could be one of the leftovers after everything settles. Regardless, the Canadian big will either remain a starter on a more-limited Jazz rotation or be sent to a contending squad that will want to feature him in their rotation. So long as he’s receiving 20-plus minutes, Olynyk has the potential to provide some limited fantasy value. If he continues as a starter or with comparable playing time, Olynyk’s early season results proved that he can reach mid-round value consistently. He missed most of January and parts of December with injuries, so his star has fallen since the New Year, but Olynyk should probably be rostered in more than half of leagues now that he has a couple games under his belt. With a Friday-Saturday back-to-back that immediately follows the deadline, Olynyk could be a late-week stud if the Jazz rotation is thinned out. Despite his pedestrian results over the past week, managers shouldn’t hesitate to take a flier on the do-it-all veteran big.

    Malik Monk, SG, Sacramento Kings

    At the time of writing, De’Aaron Fox has missed two games for personal reasons. It could be more, but Monk would be worth an add this week either way. He was able to produce 12-team numbers alongside Fox in recent games against the Wolves and Spurs, and followed that up with another solid performance in a close loss to the Pacers. Monk’s overall body of work suggests that he can provide above-average assists, free throw percentage and treys output on any given night. With a high-usage on-ball threat like Fox temporarily sidelined, there should be an opportunity for a dynamic scorer like Monk to step up and help take some defensive attention away from Domantas Sabonis.

    Honorable Mention: Aaron Nesmith (SG/SF, Pacers), Ayo Dosunmu (PG/SG, Bulls), Bruce Brown (SG/SF/PF, Nuggets), Chris Boucher (PF/C, Raptors), Cole Anthony (PG/SG, Magic), Collin Sexton (PG/SG, Jazz), Daniel Gafford (C, Wizards), De’Anthony Melton (PG/SG, Sixers), Deni Avdija (SF/PF, Wizards), Derrick White (PG/SG, Celtics), Donte DiVincenzo (PG/SG, Warriors), Dorian Finney-Smith (SF/PF, Nets), Drew Eubanks (PF/C, Blazers), Jalen Duren (PF/C, Pistons), Jalen Williams (SG/SF, Thunder), Josh Green (SG/SF, Mavs), Kenyon Martin Jr. (SF/PF, Rockets), Malcolm Brogdon (PG/SG, Celtics), Marcus Morris Sr. (PF/C, Clippers), Markelle Fultz (PG/SG, Magic), Norman Powell (SG/SF, Clippers), Patrick Williams (PF, Bulls), Precious Achiuwa (PF/C, Raptors), Royce O’Neale (SG/SF, Nets), Tari Eason (SF/PF, Rockets), Walker Kessler (PF/C, Jazz), Xavier Tillman (PF/C, Grizzlies)

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