January 29, 2023, 10:45 pm
Readers, it’s my pleasure to bring you the sixteenth edition of The Week Ahead. Sixteen is a special number in the NBA since that’s the number of playoff teams after seeds are determined. The implications of that playoff race are going to increasingly impact this season as teams start to assess their results and plot a path forward. Streaking teams like the Clippers and Sixers might look to consolidate talent around their All-NBA stars, while stumbling teams like the Blazers and Raptors might be prepared to move some player assets in the interest of long-term success. Recent injury concerns with Ben Simmons, Bobby Portis and Steven Adams may see the championship-hopeful Nets, Bucks and Grizzlies enter the market to shore up their second units as well. The trade deadline is less than two weeks away and conditions are right for a flurry of moves this year.
There are some elite fantasy players whose names are circulating in trade rumors this season. Among the current group of top-75 producers, managers will want to pay extra close attention to reporting on Gary Trent Jr., Jakob Poeltl, John Collins, Kyle Kuzma, Nikola Vucevic and OG Anunoby. Each of these players could have a realistic path to sustained or improved fantasy value with a new team and may be in a buy low window right now. Further, there are some appealing in-house beneficiaries to their trades, as the names above eclipse other notables like Deni Avdija, Jeremy Sochan, Onyeka Okongwu, Patrick Williams and Precious Achiuwa on their respective team depth charts.
One team to focus on as we progress to the second half of the season is the Detroit Pistons. The only thing they’re contending for at the point is the top pick in the draft, but they feature an abundance of young talent with fantasy upside. Jalen Duren is still chronically under-rostered as a potentially elite producer of blocks, boards and field goal percentage for the rest of the season, but that’s not all. Saddiq Bey has been on a roll recently and he’s currently sharing shots with veteran Bojan Bogdanovic, who is one of the most-discussed names on the trade market this season. As the best season-long fantasy producer on the squad, managers should take a Bogdanovic trade, if substantiated, as a sign that the Pistons are going to funnel more usage to their younger players. Peripheral standard league names like Isaiah Stewart, Jaden Ivey and Killian Hayes should surge in value, while Hamidou Diallo’s month-long boost in usage might see him cemented as a solid deep league asset. Managers could see some really nice counting stats from the young Pistons core if they’re prepared to absorb the risk to their efficiency categories. The Pistons have a four-game week and I might be prepared to stream any of the above on their Friday-Saturday back-to-back.
Of course, we could always talk about the trade that already happened instead of speculating about what could happen. The Lakers acquired Rui Hachimura for Kendrick Nunn and a bunch of assets with no fantasy relevance. Yours truly tweeted that he was worth a speculative add in the wake of the trade, just in case Hachimura could recapture and potentially sustain some of that late December magic with the Wizards. However, we got 18 points, 10 boards, two assists and a trey in two games since joining the Lakers and that’s just not enough for standard league attention. The opportunity should continue to be there for Hachimura as he settles in with his new squad, but he may need one or both of Anthony Davis and LeBron James to be out in order to get the benefit of the doubt next time. On the other side, Daniel Gafford, Delon Wright and Deni Avdija haven’t missed a beat since the trade and they’re probably going to get some extra attention in competitive leagues moving forward.
Last week, there were five names on my Quick Adds list and I was right on the money with Derrick White and Patrick Williams. Both were among the best overall contributors over the past week and punched well above their weight. Unfortunately, the same wasn’t true for Jaden McDaniels and Norman Powell as they both registered very unspectacular weeks despite the success of their teams. The real miss was Bol Bol, who fell off the radar in a meaningful way this week. As his playing time continues to hover around the 20-minute mark, I am no longer confident that Bol can sustain standard league relevance with Jonathan Isaac back in action and Moritz Wagner continuing to take frontcourt minutes. I think it’s time to move on in shallow redraft leagues.
Expect some funky scheduling in the upcoming slate of games. Several teams won’t play until Wednesday or later, including the Celtics, Rockets, Pacers, Grizzlies and Jazz. Among that group are both of this week’s two-game teams, so managers of high-level Celtics and Jazz players are going to feel the pinch this week. That might mean tough decisions for managers in shallow leagues with players like Collin Sexton, Derrick White, Grant Williams, Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley. There aren’t any particularly heavy or light schedule days, which should leave managers with a lot of flexibility when choosing streamers. However, Tuesday and Sunday stand out as the two days with the least action, for those that are interested. Over the final four days of the schedule, five teams will play three times, making available Hornets, Nuggets, Pacers, Pelicans and Knicks players some of the most appealing streaming targets to close out weekly matchups. Overall, each team has a three-day window of relevance at one point or another this week, so managers should focus on taking the best available player and flipping them within three days if possible.
Two Games: Celtics, Jazz
Three Games: Nets, Bulls, Cavs, Mavs, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Thunder, Spurs
Four Games: Hawks, Hornets, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Lakers, Wolves, Pelicans, Knicks, Magic, Sixers, Suns, Blazers, King, Raptors, Wizards
Wednesday-Thursday: Warriors, Grizzlies
Thursday-Friday: Hornets, Pacers
Friday-Saturday: Hawks, Pistons, Rockets, Suns, Blazers, Wizards
Saturday-Sunday: Nuggets, Pelicans, Knicks
Sunday-Monday (Week Seventeen): Cavs, Kings
There’s no doubt that most teams will be targeting Lakers players for Monday night. As the only Monday-Tuesday back-to-back, there’s some obvious appeal there. There are several Lakers worth considering and all could provide some short-term value, which is good, since there are no Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-backs for managers to fall back on if they strike out on Monday. It’s likely that all of the following see an early-week surge in rostership as a result of the early scarcity: Dennis Schroder, Lonnie Walker IV, Patrick Beverley, Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant.
Players from the Warriors are the only other multi-day pickups with extra value on Monday, so it’s not likely that Donte DiVincenzo, Jonathan Kuminga and Kevon Looney stick on waiver wires for long.
For those starting on Tuesday, members of the Hornets are likely to return the best value across several days, and we’ll circle back to them later. Otherwise, managers will struggle to create a counting stat advantage by streaming in the first few days of the week. Everything changes on Wednesday, when there are two teams -the Warriors and Grizzlies- playing back-to-backs and another six that have three games in four days from that point. Players from the Hawks, Pistons, Rockets, Suns, Blazers and Wizards should all be sought after at this point in the schedule. That’s a pretty wide range of options, but the late-starting Pacers will offer a nice consolation prize for those that miss out on the Wednesday rush and need to make a move on Thursday.
Going into the weekend, managers that made some key pickups on Wednesday might not need to do much because they can stretch those players out until Saturday. By Sunday, the Cavs and Kings should be prime targets in most leagues for their Monday-Sunday back-to-backs and four-game schedules in a Week Seventeen slate without as many of those.
Best Schedule: Charlotte Hornets (@ Bucks, @ Bulls, @ Pistons, vs. Magic)
The Hornets are mostly healthy and on an Eastern Conference road trip. Fans aren’t used to seeing LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier play together much this season but we should get four solid games from both early-round contributors this week. Ball and Co. play three times between Tuesday and Friday, including a Thursday-Friday back-to-back. The Hornets will return home for Sunday, which would make them active on all three of the lowest-volume days of the week. While the struggling franchise isn’t likely to compete for many wins, they do offer a collection of potential standard league assets that could be available on many waiver wires. Mason Plumlee is rostered in most competitive leagues by now and the only thing that could hold him back from an impactful fantasy week would be continued growth from an up-and-coming standard league contributor in Mark Williams. The real prize of the week may turn out to be one of Gordon Hayward or Jalen McDaniels. They’re not too far apart in terms of rostership or production and both men should have their fair share of easy looks with Ball setting the table.
Worst Schedule: Boston Celtics (vs. Nets, vs. Suns)
It was them or the Jazz and I chose the team with the poorer bill of health. Normally, that could mean a better streaming opportunity for proactive managers, but it’s not exactly clear how many games Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III will actually miss. Is it worth it to add or hold a player like Derrick White or Grant Williams if they might get bumped soon? If going that route, how useful will two games from a low-volume player be? Managers of the likes of Al Horford will get enough to live on, while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will be above-average in any given week. The difference between this and other weeks is that those offense-first players won’t have the necessary volume to really win a week for their respective squads, as they might typically do. If I have to stream players from either of the two-game teams this week, I’ll probably be going for one of the Jazz forwards.
Game of the Week: Kings at Pacers on February 3, 2023
Domantas Sabonis returns to Indiana to face his old team on Friday. Tyrese Haliburton may be sidelined, but fans will still be treated to a battle between elite fantasy producers in Sabonis and Myles Turner. While there is an obvious talent gap between them, De’Aaron Fox and TJ McConnell is still an intriguing matchup of standard league contributors in its own right. What’s more intriguing to me is how engaged Buddy Hield will be against his old team. Hield is the Kings’ all-time leader in 3-pointers but he might not hold such high esteem in the hearts of fans after how things ended, and he may be looking to show off against his former franchise. Going deeper into this matchup, fans will be treated to two of the league’s premier rookies in Bennedict Mathurin and Keegan Murray, although the latter is more likely to have a standard league impact. The X-factor in this matchup is Haliburton, whose return looms and would add an extra layer of relevance to what could already be a very productive fantasy matchup.
Cole Anthony, PG/SG, Orlando Magic
Is he Greg’s son or is Greg his dad? Cole is quickly developing a name of his own in the league and is seeming like more of a lock to have a more fruitful career than his father by the day. The high-flying guard first became notable for his dunks, but Anthony has now cemented himself as one of the best rebounding guards in the league. Factoring in his above-average assists and decreased turnovers, there’s a lot to like here. He’s not usually the first option on offense for the Magic, but the 6’3” guard has been on a scoring streak lately and is right around average value there, which gives him some extra fantasy appeal. The Magic have a four-game road trip this week and Anthony should be rostered in standard leagues based on his current pace.
Immanuel Quickley, PG/SG, New York Knicks
About a month ago, I had Quickley listed in this spot around the same time that he was expected to lose ground to a returning RJ Barrett. I advised managers that Quickley would hardly fall back at all and it’s been proven true since then. The dynamic Knicks guard continues to get major playing time under Tom Thibodeau and has consistently found some way to contribute from game-to-game. He’s always liable to score 12-plus points on any given night, but Quickley is also a capable producer of assists, rebounds, steals and threes. Players that primarily contribute in counting stats often need two things to thrive: lots of games and lots of playing time. We already touched on the playing time and the Knicks are scheduled for four games this week, so odds are good that Quickley will retain standard league relevance for another week.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG/SF, Denver Nuggets
Who doesn’t love a 3-and-D player? There is a clear set of expectations for players with this label and it’s easy to be satisfied with their output if they meet some basic criteria. Caldwell-Pope is one of the last options on offense for the full-strength Nuggets, and yet he makes his looks count in almost every game. The veteran guard is posting improved field goal percentage over past season while continuing to offer one or two treys and steals each night. He’s not a noteworthy assists or boards producer, but KCP is able to collect a few of each every night, and he isn’t likely to hold the ball for long enough to hurt his fantasy managers with turnovers. This is one of those high-floor, low-ceiling picks that’s easy to make when the player in question has a four-game slate.
Larry Nance Jr., PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans
At the time of writing, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Dyson Daniels and Zion Williamson are all sidelined. That’s more than a hundred minutes and about half as many shot attempts that will be missing if everyone in that group sits out of the Pelicans next contest(s). Nance isn’t exactly going to carry the offense in their stead, but he’s the sort of do-everything veteran that is often asked to step up in these situations. The second-generation forward has long since proven himself as a per-minute monster and conditions are shaping up for a boost in playing time this week. Nance is a capable two-way player that offers impressive defensive production for a streamer while also hovering around average rebound value. With their typical play initiators sidelined, the Pelicans may choose to run some extra plays through Nance, who is a capable passer and could produce some sneaky out-of-position value with assists this week.
Trey Murphy III, SF/PF, New Orleans Pelicans
It’s a double dose of Pelicans this week. The latest addition to the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest should also benefit from the potential absences of three starters this week, and history suggests that he does a pretty darn good job when the likes of Ingram, McCollum and Williamson are sidelined. Murphy has been a fixture in the starting lineup all season and even though he hasn’t been performing well lately, there should be ample opportunity for him to turn things around in a four-game week with a back-to-back. The best version of him offers treys, defensive stats, solid shooting percentages and low turnovers, but above-average scoring would really seal the deal for Murphy as an ideal Week Seventeen add.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Clarke (SF/PF, Grizzlies), Bruce Brown (SG/SF/PF, Nuggets), Daniel Gafford (C, Wizards), Delon Wright (PG/SG, Wizards), Deni Avdija (SF/PF, Wizards), Donte DiVincenzo (PG/SG, Warriors), Dorian Finney-Smith (SF/PF, Mavs), Gordon Hayward (SF/PF, Hornets), Grayson Allen (SG/SF, Bucks), Jalen Williams (SG/SF, Thunder), Jarred Vanderbilt (PF/C, Jazz), Jeremy Sochan (PF, Spurs), Jose Alvarado (PG, Pelicans), Kelly Olynyk (PF/C, Jazz), Kevon Looney (C, Warriors), Kyle Anderson (SF/PF, Wolves), Mark Williams (C, Hornets), Naji Marshall (SG/SF, Pelicans), Onyeka Okongwu (C, Hawks), Patrick Beverley (PG/SG, Lakers), Patrick Williams (PF, Bulls), Precious Achiuwa (PF/C, Raptors), Quentin Grimes (SG/SF, Knicks), Tari Eason (SF/PF, Rockets), Walker Kessler (PF/C, Jazz)
We’re getting some good news on the injury front, with Brandon Ingram and LaMelo Ball returning to action last week and Khris Middleton and Anthony Davis both ramping up. For the first time in a long time we weren’t handed a batch of crushing injury developments that will take fantasy teams out of contention for a few weeks at a time.
Go ahead and check out our live injury report to get the skinny on the entire league.
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