• Hello and welcome to another edition of The Week Ahead! One full month of basketball is in the books and we’re starting to get a clearer picture of how things might shake out this season. 

    Let’s go ahead and pretend there’s nothing of concern happening at the bottom of the standings and celebrate some successes instead. Even though the Cavs have lost three in a row at the time of writing this, they are top-3 in the East and proving doubters of the Donovan Mitchell trade wrong. Speaking of trades that went right: Dejounte Murray is thriving with the Hawks and Trae Young looks like he’ll be close behind once his shot starts to fall more reliably. The Blazers come alive in the fourth quarter behind the always-impressive Damian Lillard, but it’s their depth and improved play from Jerami Grant which has seen them rising in the standings. To round out this week’s congratulations, it should be noted that the very competitive Jazz had nine players hovering around standard league value since Monday. In particular, I’ll be focusing on Blazers players for their weak schedule games this week.

    Ignorance is bliss, right? Well, I’m (already) done pretending there’s nothing to talk about with the bottom-feeding teams of the league, so it’s a short-lived bliss. All eyes continue to be focused on the losing Lakers, while the Hornets have bottomed-out without LaMelo Ball to steady the ship. Ball is back now but who’s saving the Lakers? There’s no answers on that roster but there are some intriguing streaming options that could fill gaps here or there on deep league rosters. The Pistons are right where they want to be: losing with a strong core of developing players and giving dynasty managers lots to think about. With four games this week, the Hornets and Pistons could both offer some upside for managers looking at a week-long stream. There’s no such luck for the Lakers, as their players only have a two-game window of relevance in Week Five. In fact, the Lakers and Sixers both don’t start until Friday night, so good luck to managers that are counting on big performances from either team.

    Are the Wolves where they want to be right now? Probably not, and there are concerns that what they’re getting from Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell aren’t good enough, while the Gobert-Towns pairing may still be better in theory than in practice. Something’s not right there, but at least Jaden McDaniels is doing his thing. There’s only two games on the schedule for the Wolves this week, so managers of their key players had better hope for some big games. 

    If history repeats itself, then consider me out on Cam Thomas next time he has a scoring outburst. After appearing as one of the Quick Adds in last week’s article, Thomas promptly scored 10 points in two games with brutal shooting and low counting stats. Edmond Sumner stole the show for the Nets this week, although both men are here because Kyrie Irving isn’t (yet). After also appearing last week, Larry Nance Jr. was part of a generally-underwhelming Pelicans group from the past week, but at least Chris Boucher and Deni Avdija had a couple of solid outings each. There’s no schedule-based incentive to circle back around to any of these athletes.

    Did anyone see Jordan Goodwin coming? He started out the week on fire and gave remarkable value over three games this week. Goodwin has the trust of his coach early on and Monte Morris is trending down at the same time, so all eyes should be on how this situation develops once Bradley Beal is back in the fold and there’s already good reason to have him rostered in the short-term. Jevon Carter totaled 53 points coming into this past Wednesday and by Friday night he had more than doubled that number. Both lead guards got snapped up in a lot of leagues and that trend should only continue if they keep it up, but the Bucks and Wizards are scheduled on days that may see teams having to make tough choices about who to start.

    There’s one team that’s going to stand out to every attentive manager this week: the Spurs. As the only five-game team this week, it’s natural that rotation-level Spurs players should be considered the best long-stream targets when compared with their peers. However, if you can see it, then so can the other managers, so don’t start scrolling way down on the waiver wire to find the next Spurs guy. There should be enough backups if the scope of your search also includes the Pistons, Clippers and Blazers.

    The heaviest part of the schedule is on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, so there’s no shame in maxing out your weekly moves by the weekend. Maximizing output on the Monday-Thursday stretch should help managers to get a competitive edge this week. The added advantage of front-loading rosters this week is that building up an early lead can force the other manager into reactive decision-making and, potentially, mistakes. 

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Bulls, Lakers, Wolves, Sixers

    Three Games: Hawks, Celtics, Nets, Cavs, Nuggets, Pacers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Pelicans, Thunder, Blazers, Kings, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards

    Four Games: Hornets, Mavs, Pistons, Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Magic, Suns

    Five Games: Spurs

    Back-to-Backs

    Monday-Tuesday: Clippers, Spurs

    Tuesday-Wednesday: Mavs, Pelicans, Knicks

    Wednesday-Thursday: None

    Thursday-Friday: Pistons

    Friday-Saturday: Pacers, Magic, Sixers, Jazz

    Saturday-Sunday: Spurs

    Sunday-Monday (Week Five): Cavs, Warriors, Heat, Knicks

    Schedule Maximizers

    Believe it or not, the Spurs are far and away the best option to maximize schedules this week. In other news: the sky is blue and water is wet. Apart from the obvious, managers could think of the Blazers and Clippers as the next-best options for taking advantage of weak schedule days and getting an extra edge on the competition. The Hornets, Knicks, Magic and Pistons round out the core of teams that are most likely to yield positive schedule-based outcomes for managers this week. That last group isn’t as competitive from an on-court standpoint, so there’s more likely to be variability with player outputs than from the Blazers-Clippers-Spurs trio. Managers streaming players from the Celtics, Bulls, Bucks, Pelicans and Thunder would be well-served by planning to flip these players for the Lakers and Sixers players that are likely to find their way to the wire between now and Friday. That way, there will be no gap in productivity once the weekend arrives.

    Best Schedule: Spurs (@ Warriors, @ Blazers, @ Kings, @ Clippers, @ Lakers)

    Five games scheduled around the two days with 10-plus games on the docket. Need I say more? That’s a back-to-back to start and finish the week with a weak schedule Thursday in between. The Spurs are taking their show on the road all week, which should really put their winning road record to the test. Four games in California and a quick trip up to Oregon shouldn’t be too hard on the youthful Spurs, so there shouldn’t be much concern from a fatigue standpoint. There should be a Spurs player on the wire no matter the league size and managers should be quick to jump on any that appear near the top of their free agency lists. 

    Worst Schedule: Bulls (@ Pelicans, vs. Magic)

    There’s 10 games on Wednesday and 11 games on Friday, and those are the only two days that the Bulls play. There’s no issue for teams with big dogs like DeMar DeRozan or Nikola Vucevic, but the streaming appeal of Bulls players is down the drain and managers questioning whether or not to hold any Bulls near the end of their bench will probably have an easier time making a decision this week. There’s likely to be a buy-low window opening in deeper leagues for managers that want to acquire the non-elite Bulls, as the raw numbers probably won’t be there this week.

    Game of the Week: Jazz @ Blazers on Saturday, November 19, 2022

    The Blazers are prone to high-scoring affairs and the Jazz are filled to the brim with standard league contributors. Despite neither team being projected to be where they are in the standings in the pre-season betting, these squads are leading the way in the Western Conference and haven’t shown signs of slowing. This is the sort of meaningful game that should see both teams tighten up the rotations and let their key players duke it out, so there’s a good chance that we see iron sharpen iron and get solid performances from the standard league players on both sides. Here’s an interesting question to ponder until Saturday: between the Grant-Lillard-Simons trio and the Clarkson-Markkanen-Sexton one, who do you think gets more excited when the game turns into a shootout? 

    Quick Adds

    Charles Bassey, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs

    Bassey wasn’t on anyone’s radar last week and now he’s putting up early round value. There’s going to be a reckoning on this account sooner than later, but the early signs are good. We didn’t really see Bassey with the Sixers, but what we’re getting from his early time with the Spurs is reminiscent of the scouting report on his 2021 NBA Draft profile. There’s space in the rotation behind Jakob Poeltl, especially with the oft-injured Zach Collins staying in street clothes for the short-term. Why not take a flier on Bassey if he’s available in your league? The worst-case scenario is you get a few lame duck games and you move on, but the best-case scenario is you get what we saw last week: a matchup-altering contributor. 

    Norman Powell, SG/SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Here’s a player that likely got drafted and then dropped in a lot of leagues and justifiably so, if you’re using his current output as a measuring stick. However, Powell has had serious slumps in past years and still features prominently in the rotation of a team that is currently dead last in points per-game. In other words, Powell is notably failing to do the one thing that has been his calling card for the best parts of his career, and that thing is the thing that the Clippers desperately need. They’ve got games scheduled on all the weakest days this week, so I’m betting on Powell to continue the comeback we started to see this week. Peak Powell is a high-percentage scorer that can give a few treys and a steal per night with limited turnovers. That’s not who we’ve seen for most of this year, but it’s who we got used to seeing for years, and it’s more likely than not that this trend reverts to the norm eventually.

    Mo Bamba, C, Orlando Magic

    Bamba is riding shotgun in the same boat that Powell has been in this season, and it looks like they might get an opportunity to buck the trend at the same time. Over the past week, Bamba was able to crack the rotation for around 20 minutes a night, which saw him almost crack the top-100 on a per-game basis over that period. If available, Bamba could be worth a speculative add for Monday. If the minutes continue at the same pace or better, then Bamba should reward managers with standard league value. If the trend goes in the opposite direction on Monday, then managers can move on without much chagrin, as Bamba plays on the two busy schedule days. As with Powell, there will likely be a very small window of opportunity to roster and retain these buy-low players once (if) they start to trend up. There’s some other names that don’t require much explanation below if it doesn’t work out. I’d start Bamba in all four games he plays this week if I saw him bucking the trend, so there’s a clear risk-reward play here.

    Obi Toppin, PF, New York Knicks

    In continuation of the limited minutes but big contributions trend, Toppin makes an appearance on this week’s list. While he may not yet have the reliability of other players that could occupy the end of the roster in standard leagues this week, Toppin is starting to carve out a nice niche in fantasy. At this point, it’s fair to say that he’s a threat to register at least one trey on any given night, and that’s conservative, given that his current rate is closer to two per-game. That’s the same pace that Toppin was producing steals at since last Monday, as he followed a four-steal outing with a pair of single-theft games. The steals and treys would be a key addition to the fantasy profile of a player that is typically only an asset in shooting percentages and rebounds. For what it’s worth, Toppin is way below his typical shooting average and the only way he can go is up from here. There should be enough playing time to rationalize rostering Toppin in the short-term, but Mitchell Robinson’s return looms. The Knicks have four games this week with one-day breaks in between each contest, so there’s some week-long streaming appeal here. If he keeps it up, Toppin might stick in Coach Thibodeau’s rotation and on the standard league radar.

    Honorable Mention: Jevon Carter (PG/SG, Bucks), Jeremy Sochan (PF, Spurs), Josh Richardson (SG/SF, Spurs), Like Kennard (SG/SF, Clippers), Walker Kessler (PF/C, Jazz), Jalen McDaniels (SF/PF, Hornets), Aleksej Pokusevski (SF/PF/C, Thunder), Kenyon Martin Jr. (SF/PF, Rockets), Grant Williams (SF/PF, Celtics), Bruce Brown (SF/PF, Nuggets), Jordan Goodwin (PG, Wizards)

    Injury Report

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

    Al Horford (back) Injured on November 11, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Jaylen Brown (left knee) Injured on November 12, 2022. DNP on Saturday. 

    Malcolm Brogdon (right hamstring) Injured on November 9, 2022. DNP on Saturday

    Kyrie Irving (suspension) – Reported on November 3, 2022. Out until at least Sunday.

    TJ Warren (left foot) – Injured on December 28, 2020. Week-to-week.

    Gordon Hayward (left shoulder) – Injured on November 2, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Dennis Smith Jr. (left ankle) – Injured on November 11, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Andre Drummond (left shoulder) – Injured on October 28, 2022. Out for Sunday.

    Zach LaVine (left knee) – Injured on October 26, 2022. Questionable for Sunday.

    Dean Wade (right knee) – Injured on November 10, 2022. DNP on Friday.

    Cade Cunningham (left shin) – Injured on November 10, 2022. Out until at least November 18, 2022.

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

    Jae’Sean Tate (right ankle) – Injured on October 29, 2022. Out indefinitely.

    Chris Duarte (left ankle) – Injured on November 4, 2022. To be re-evaluated in late November.

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

    LeBron James (left adductor) – Injured on November 9, 2022. Doubtful for Sunday.

    Desmond Bane (toe) – Injured on November 12, 2022. Doubtful for Sunday.

    Ja Morant (left ankle) – Injured on November 12, 2022. Doubtful for Sunday.

    Jaren Jackson Jr. (right foot) – Injured on June 28, 2022. Doubtful for Sunday.

    Tyler Herro (left ankle) – Injured on November 5, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

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

    Giannis Antetokounmpo (left knee) – Injured on November 8, 2022. DNP on Friday.

    Jrue Holiday (right ankle) – Injured on November 8, 2022. DNP on Friday

    Khris Middleton (left wrist) – Injured on September 23, 2022. Day-to-day.

    Pat Connaughton (right calf) – Injured on October 10, 2022. Day-to-day.

    Mitchell Robinson (right knee) – Injured on November 4, 2022. Day-to-day.

    Darius Bazley (right ankle) – Injured on November 9, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

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

    Markelle Fultz (left toe) – Injured on September 25, 2022. Out indefinitely.

    Paolo Banchero (left ankle) – Injured on November 8, 2022. Day-to-day.

    De’Anthony Melton (back) – Injured on November 11, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    James Harden (right foot) – Injured on November 2, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Cameron Johnson (right knee) – Injured on November 4, 2022. Out for 1-to-2 months.

    Chris Paul (right foot) – Injured on November 7, 2022. DNP on Friday.

    Gary Payton II (abdomen) – Injured on July 15, 2022. Out indefinitely.

    Jusuf Nurkic (right adductor) – Injured on November 8, 2022. DNP on Saturday.

    Zach Collins (left leg) – Injured on November 3, 2022. Out for 2-to-4 weeks.

    Pascal Siakam (right groin) – Injured on November 4, 2022. Week-to-week.

    Precious Achiuwa (right ankle) – Injured on November 9, 2022. Out indefinitely.

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

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