• Week 15 saw a few additions to the league’s injury report. We lost James Harden for a couple games to a hamstring issue followed by a strained hand. Lonzo Ball officially went under the knife to address his meniscal tear. Kristaps Porzingis has missed the majority of his last two contests with knee soreness. Kyle Lowry still hasn’t made his return from a personal issue.

    Then there’s Los Angeles, where three star forwards in Anthony Davis, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have either missed the entire season or a large portion of it. PG and Leonard remain out while Davis returned this past week and has been great in his time back. While NBA fans are excited for the Brow’s return, it wasn’t all rosy news for the Lakers.

    The theme for the Lakers this season has been one All-Star forward enters and one exits. LeBron James, the face of the league for the last 18 seasons, has suffered his fair share of unfortunate injuries in the last season-and-a-half. Last year, Solomon Hill dove into James’ ankle, sidelining the King for the better part of the season’s second half. LeBron also missed time earlier this season with an abdomen issue and ankle soreness. Now, the King’s dealing with soreness stemming from swelling in his left knee that has forced him to miss the team’s last three games.

    James, in the midst of one of his great seasons, which is obviously saying something, was once the league’s ironman. The 37-year-old has played at such a superb level he convinced us, once again, that he was superhuman. Unfortunately for NBA fans and James’ managers, he is indeed approaching 40 years of age and is quite human. LeBron, like his younger ‘contemporaries’, isn’t impervious to injury. The four-time MVP will remain sidelined until the swelling in his left knee dissipates.

    As is always the case in fantasy, stay on your toes. With James out, Russell Westbrook has reverted to his high-usage self from his Thunder days. James Harden going down gave way for Patty Mills to rise. Malik Monk and Carmelo Anthony have stepped up in the King’s absence. Ayo Dosunmu has grabbed ahold of a role in Chicago and hasn’t let go since Ball and Alex Caruso (right wrist) went down. Heck, De’Anthony Melton is actually playing for the Grizzlies with Tyus Jones still in the league’s health and safety protocols.

    The week ahead offers an evenly distributed slate of games. Every day has between six and nine games on it. Each night offers either the front end or the back end of a back-to-back. 29 teams either play three or four contests in week 16. There is only one bad schedule this week, while the other 29 are workable. Thanks to the balanced schedule, managers with several injuries can make do as we barrel towards the fantasy playoffs. One waiver wire acquisition can make all the difference in the world, so use them wisely.

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Jazz

    Three Games: Hornets, Mavs, Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Wolves, Knicks, Suns, Spurs, Wizards

    Four Games: Hawks, Celtics, Nets, Bulls, Cavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Rockets, Pacers, Heat, Pelicans, Thunder, Magic, Sixers, Blazers, Kings, Raptors

    Back-to-Backs

    Monday/Tuesday: Warriors, Heat, Pelicans, Raptors

    Tuesday/Wednesday: Nets, Nuggets, Magic, Wizards

    Wednesday/Thursday: Lakers, Kings

    Thursday/Friday: Hawks, Bulls, Pistons, Spurs, Raptors

    Friday/Saturday: Hornets, Thunder, Blazers

    Saturday/Sunday: Bucks, Magic

    Schedule Maximizers

    This week’s schedule is more evenly distributed than usual. No day features a double-digit slate, and the lightest nights, on Thursday and Saturday, feature six games apiece. This makes week 16 a great week for streaming. There are double-header opportunities managers can exploit every day of the week. Theoretically, managers can schedule-stream two games with each of their adds, totaling eight games with four pickups Monday through Sunday. It’s a great week for injury-riddled teams to mitigate the absences they’re experiencing. The Heat, Bulls, Magic and Raptors all feature favorable schedules managers could use to their advantage.

    Best Schedule: Heat (@ Celtics, @ Raptors, @ Spurs, @ Hornets)

    The Heat kick-off their four-game week with a doubleheader against the Celtics and the Raptors before resuming their schedule on Thursday and Saturday. Kyle Lowry has missed seven-straight games due to personal issues, making Gabe Vincent an insanely valuable streamer if Lowry misses more time. Last week in 9-cat leagues, Vincent is inside the top-100 and number 85 in the seven games Lowry has missed. Jimmy Butler is questionable on Monday with a right ankle injury. If Butler misses the contest, Max Strus and Caleb Martin would be players to consider in his stead.

    Worst Schedule: Jazz (vs. Nuggets, vs. Nets)

    The Jazz are the only team scheduled for two contests this week, making their schedule that much worse. Managers in weekly formats should probably avoid their Jazzmen, electing for other sources for games. The Jazz’s two games take place in a three-night window, so if adding one of their guys it would preferably come on Wednesday and streaming them through Friday night.

    Game of the Week: Nuggets @ Wolves, Tuesday, February 1st, 8:00 pm ET

    The upstart Wolves, led by the trio of D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns and the high-flying Anthony Edwards, host the reigning MVP as they try to climb out of the play-in picture. Sitting one game under .500, the Wolves sit in the 8th seed entering the week coming off three-straight losses to the West’s elite in the Warriors, Suns and Jazz. Nikola Jokic single-handedly has the Nuggets three games ahead of the 7th seed on the strength of another MVP-like season. He’s the best fantasy player in the game for the second-straight season.

    Quick Adds

    Maxi Kleber, PF/C, Dallas Mavericks

    Kleber could be added on Wednesday after a strong week inside the top-70 in 9-category formats. Kristaps Porzingis is dealing with a sore right knee and Kleber is the immediate add when the Unicorn’s out. Kleber can hit 3s, block shots and score efficiently when his jumper’s falling.

    De’Anthony Melton, PG/SG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Melton’s finally getting minutes in Memphis. Over the past week, Melton is inside the top-70 in 9-cat leagues in 26 minutes a night. He’s averaging over two steals, nearly seven boards and nearly a block while knocking down two triples in that time. Melton’s percentages are rough, but he can do so much in a limited time he’s worth an add to start the week.

    Gabe Vincent, PG, Miami Heat

    Kyle Lowry will miss an eighth-straight game on Monday due to personal reasons, giving way for Vincent to continue his awesome streaming run. The backup point guard is No. 85 in 9-cat leagues over the past two weeks while playing 35 minutes a night. He hits 3-pointers, hands out several helpers and notches over a steal per contest while hitting free throws at a great percentage. The Heat play a doubleheader to start the week, so managers should be able to extract at least two games from Vincent and four in the best-case scenario.

    Luguentz Dort, SG/SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Dort has four games scheduled this week and the team’s number one option, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, is out for at least two weeks with a sprained right ankle. In place of SGA, the entire team will see an uptick in shot attempts, but nobody will see their usage rise like Dort already has. In two games last week, Dort played nearly 36 minutes a night and got up 29 shot attempts. He shot well enough last week to put up early third-round value, an expectation managers shouldn’t hold for the third-year wing. He’s a streamer with benefits until SGA’s return.

    Injury Report

    James Harden missed the team’s contest on Saturday with a right hand strain and is considered day-to-day. Kevin Durant remains sidelined with a sprained MCL in his left knee.

    Gordon Hayward is in the league’s health and safety protocol and is out indefinitely.

    Lonzo Ball underwent surgery to address a torn meniscus in his left knee and he’ll be out for 6-to-8 weeks.

    Kristaps Porzingis missed their Sunday contest with a sore right knee after exiting their Saturday night contest with the same issue.

    Jerami Grant is approaching a return from a stint in the league’s health and safety protocols and his surgically repaired right thumb. Kelly Olynyk has also cleared the league’s health protocols and is approaching a return.

    Draymond Green’s (left calf tightness, back) status should be updated sometime this week after meeting with a specialist.

    Myles Turner is approaching a return to play from his left foot stress reaction. Malcom Brogdon is out indefinitely with right Achilles soreness.

    Paul George (right elbow) remains sidelined indefinitely alongside Kawhi Leonard (right ACL).

    LeBron James has missed three-straight games with swelling in his left knee and is tabled as day-to-day.

    Kyle Lowry will miss Monday’s contest with a personal matter for the eighth-straight game. Jimmy Butler is questionable for Monday with a sprained right ankle.

    D’Angelo Russell missed Sunday’s contest with a left shin contusion and should be considered day-to-day.

    Jonas Valanciunas is questionable for Monday with a non-COVID illness. Brandon Ingram is also questionable for Monday with a sprained right ankle.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be out through the All-Star break with a sprained right ankle.

    Deandre Ayton missed the team’s Sunday contest with his sprained right ankle.

    Damian Lillard remains out indefinitely with a surgically repaired abdomen.

    De’Aaron Fox has missed four-straight contests with a sore left ankle.

    Dejounte Murray missed Sunday’s contest with a left knee contusion, as did Jakob Poeltl with lower back soreness.

    Donovan Mitchell is approaching a return from the league’s concussion protocol, but he missed the team’s contest on Sunday. Rudy Gobert missed a fourth-straight game with a left calf strain.

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