November 27, 2022, 11:48 pm
Denizens of the SportsEthosystem, I bring you the latest edition of The Week Ahead! For Week Seven, we’re giving thanks for seven centers that put up first round value over the last seven days. Fun fact: about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water and the rest is covered by Anthony Davis, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Myles Turner. The reigning MVP, Nikola Jokic, remains as elite as ever, while Deandre Ayton, Kelly Olynyk and Nicolas Claxton also had some remarkable performances over the past week. Among that group, Jackson is the only one without a four-game schedule coming up, so managers should hope that this momentum carries forward into their next matchup if they have any of these players rostered.
Injuries continue to take their toll around the league, as several teams continue to deal with the potential absences of five or more players on any given night. However, this has created some excellent opportunities for exciting new players to grab the spotlight and potentially be difference-makers for any squads that picked them up. Players like Devonte’ Graham, Garrison Mathews, Kevin Knox, Paul Reed and Shake Milton all produced early to mid-round value over the past week and would have been well worth the roster spot if any teams took a chance on them. Will it continue for much longer? Probably not, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt next time these players get some regular minutes.
Real estate on Ben Simmons Island has been gradually appreciating in value over the past few weeks and there’s no reason to doubt that the man we once knew as a top-50 fantasy option can sustain his current momentum. There’s a nice sell-high window open for the managers that felt burned by him and don’t want to hold that risk any longer, but he’s producing all of the assists, boards, defensive stats and field goal percentage that got him on fantasy radars in the first place. If there’s a drop-off with Simmons, my prediction is that it’s when “Bubble Jordan,” TJ Warren, makes his return to action. After scrimmaging with teammates over the past week, there are some encouraging signs that there could be another potential standard-league producer in the Nets lineup sooner than later. Reports indicate that it may be as soon as the end of the upcoming week.
Last time around, we looked at a few different names for Quick Adds. Am I particularly proud of the Tyus Jones prediction? It wasn’t a clear-cut winner, but how was anybody supposed to know the Grizzlies meant day-to-day when they initially listed Ja Morant as week-to-week? We got 18 assists, seven treys and only three turnovers in three games from Jones, so it was still worthwhile for teams that needed a boost in those areas. It’s certainly better than what we got out of Jalen Williams, who got the minutes but forgot the production this week. Kyle Anderson’s back waited until last week’s article was published before having spasms, so it was a shaky start to the week, but he recovered quickly and still gave solid shooting percentages, rebounds and great defensive production for any managers that had him active in the two games he did play. The real winner from last week was Lonnie Walker IV, who gave us top-100 value with 61 points, nine treys, four steals and making exactly half of his shots on average for Week Six. He has graduated from streamer to hold for as long as he’s getting heavily featured with the Lakers.
Looking forward, we’re once again saddled with the peaks and valleys of the new NBA schedule. If readers care to visualize the upcoming week, they could imagine being at the summit of Mount Everest one day and descending to the quiet valley below the next. To kick off the week, it’s a 10-game Monday followed by a three-game Tuesday. The decline becomes steeper when we consider that a 13-game Wednesday turns into a single-game Thursday schedule before finally starting to level out going into the weekend. It’s going to force some teams into some tough start-or-sit decisions, so managers are going to have to look at their rosters on the busy days before rushing to add the hottest free agent and potentially being forced to relegate them to the bench.
With so many strong schedule teams active on Monday, it’s probably safer to just say that I’m least interested in the Hornets for a long-stream. It’s no problem to keep your favorite Hornets streamer from Week Six for that Monday game, but you can kick them to the curb afterwards and still have time to re-add them once they clear waivers before their next game on Friday. After that, it’s three games in four days and all systems go. There are two teams with three games in four days this week, so it’s really important to try and capitalize on the Raptors and Rockets streamers in the mid-week schedule. Both teams are dealing with injuries and should have some intriguing options to consider in standard leagues for the week ahead. Despite the combined injury-opportunity window with both teams, I’m still not going to pick either one for Best Schedule this week, so readers will have to scroll down to get more on that. In fact, for the second week in a row, I’m not going to pick a four-game team, even though there are lots of contenders, so thanks but better luck next week to the Knicks and Blazers.
Two Games: Heat
Three Games: Hawks, Hornets, Mavs, Pistons, Warriors, Clippers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Wolves, Thunder, Sixers, Spurs
Four Games: Celtics, Nets, Bulls, Cavs, Nuggets, Rockets, Pacers, Lakers, Pelicans, Knicks, Magic, Suns, Blazers, Kings, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards
Tuesday-Wednesday: Clippers, Knicks, Blazers
Friday-Saturday: Hornets, Warriors, Rockets, Bucks, Magic, Raptors, Jazz
Saturday-Sunday: Knicks, Blazers, Kings
Sunday-Monday (Week Eight): Celtics, Pacers, Grizzlies, Suns
Pick the best player available on Monday and see if they’re worth holding through the week. Anything less than a great performance probably makes that same player expendable if you can get one of the better Mavs or Pistons for the Tuesday-Thursday stretch, at the least. Failing that, the next-best value would be found in Clippers, Knicks or Blazers players on their Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-back for managers looking to replace injured players on the busy Wednesday. Half the league has two games in three days on the final Friday-Sunday stretch, so the better bets are the teams that can give you extra production in Week Eight. By process of elimination, let’s rule out Nets, Bulls, Wolves, Pelicans, Spurs and Wizards due to no Monday or Tuesday Week Eight games. There is a window of opportunity to stream the back-to-backs of players from teams like the Knicks, Blazers, Kings and Jazz in the tail-end of Week Seven, but managers should prepare to move on immediately in Week Eight. In order to squeeze out some extra value from my moves in the following week, I’ll be targeting players from the Celtics, Hornets, Nuggets, Pacers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Magic, Suns and Raptors to close out my upcoming matchup.
Best Schedule: Mavs (vs. Warriors, @ Pistons, @ Knicks)
They play on all of the softest schedule days and start Week Eight with a back-to-back, so managers get a bonus move if they roll with a Mavs player all week. There are tons of options that are active to patch holes in rosters on the busy days, so those teams don’t get any bonus points for being one among a large crowd. Unlike the Pistons, the Mavs don’t really rest once their schedule kicks off this week. Going into Wednesday of Week Eight, the Mavs won’t rest for more than a day. There aren’t a ton of high-value players on the Mavs, but the teams that have Christian Wood, Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie are likely to get an extra edge on the competition for a while. Depending on how the rotation shakes out and which players get rolling, there could be some other Mavs on the standard league radar when we eventually reflect on this upcoming week.
Worst Schedule: Heat (@ Celtics, @ Celtics)
Good luck sorting out that injury report and predicting who’s going to be reliable for the Heat next week. Bam Adebayo, Caleb Martin and Kyle Lowry have been particularly great, but they’ve been carrying a heavy load and they only get two games to help fantasy managers. The Heat could be working several starters back into the lineup this week, so I’m expecting a rusty team with the only two-game schedule to be too difficult to work with this week. At least those two games are only a day apart, so there is some short-term streaming value for that Heat player at the top of your waiver wire.
Game of the Week: Lakers @ Bucks on December 2, 2022
It’s Giannis Antetokounmpo against LeBron James and, to a lesser extent, Anthony Davis. Being the competitors that they are and given their mutual esteem for one another, it’s likely that fans will be treated to a game where both Antetokounmpo and James are fully engaged on both ends. Not to be outdone, Davis has returned to unicorn status once again and could surely put his own stamp on any game he chooses. From a fantasy perspective, he’s only slightly ahead of Brook Lopez, but both men should have their hands full on Friday. All players named so far are among the stoutest defenders in the league, so it’s more likely that we see their respective values on that end than the offensive side of the ball. Khris Middleton’s return continues to loom, while Jrue Holiday is always impactful on both sides of the ball. I
’m interested in Jevon Carter and Pat Connaughton if I’m a deep league manager, but they’re probably not going to make the cut for me in a 12-team league. Patrick Beverley should be back from his suspension to stir the pot on defense while producing some questionable fantasy value that would be way better if only he could make a shot, which would make him a lot more like Grayson Allen than he already is, or vice-versa. It’s more likely that the point guard of choice for the Lakers is going to be Dennis Schroder, who should join Austin Reaves as the low-end standard league streaming options from their side.
Chris Boucher, PF/C, Toronto Raptors
It was always going to be Boucher or his frontcourt mate, Thad Young. Unlike Young, Boucher’s spot in the rotation is not dependent on the Raptors injury report, which may not feature Pascal Siakam or Scottie Barnes for much longer. The Montreal product by way of Saint Lucia has been rolling for weeks and yet he is somehow still available in a bunch of standard leagues. Boucher was a top-50 option a few seasons ago and, while it’s unlikely he sustains such highs again this season, it’s not far off the pace he’s setting for himself with three consecutive double-double performances in his most recent games. Boucher is known for producing value in blocks, field goal percentage and rebounds, but he can be a flamethrower on offense if he gets going early. If he sustains the recent boost in offensive production, Boucher may be able to become an above-average points producer in November. Over his current 11-game stretch for the month, Boucher is hovering around average or better value in blocks, boards and steals. There’s a lot to like here and the Raptors have a four-game week. Rostering Boucher shouldn’t be a difficult decision for managers that need a big in the upcoming week.
Dorian Finney-Smith, SF/PF, Dallas Mavs
Someone from the team with the best schedule should appear on this list, and if there’s one safe bet from the Mavs that’s straddling the line of availability and productivity, it’s Finney-Smith. This is a player that was likely drafted in a lot of leagues and later dropped due to a very unspectacular start to the season. It’s still fair to question how much value he’ll bring on any given night without much counting stat production, but Finney-Smith has still been within the top-100 over the past week. There’s not going to be many assists, boards or points, but Finney-Smith can still produce value with mostly treys and steals. In past seasons, he has been a much more reliable option for field goal percentage, but it’s a fair trade if his boost in blocks value is sustainable.
Jalen Smith, PF/C, Indiana Pacers
A few weeks ago, it wouldn’t have been worthwhile to add him to this list; Smith wouldn’t have been available in enough leagues. However, Smith’s percentages are causing him to drop off rosters pretty quickly. Lately, he’s been a rebounds and blocks specialist without many rebounds or blocks. However, Smith remains a likelier option than other potential Pacers players due to his sky-high ceiling and his seemingly-solidified place in the starting lineup. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that his recent play could warrant a spot on the bench, but the upside of taking a flier on Smith is probably worth it if you can get four games in six days with him. With potential to create value in every category but assists and steals, Smith could be a difference-maker in any week and might be in the lowest of buy low windows right now. Follow the trend of dropping him if he doesn’t improve from his current pace, but I think the only way is up for the Pacers prospect.
Tari Eason, SF/PF, Houston Rockets
As much as I like the “Tari Pre-Season” nickname, I have to admit that I’m still stuck on Eason’s potential for this season. There’s no doubt that he has sustainable value as a steals specialist and Eason is getting close to being a reliable rebounds option as well. It’s always fun to throw a low-minute, high-production player on these lists because of the potential for the pick to become a true week-changer if they actually get 20-plus minutes. There has only been one occasion this season that Eason hasn’t returned average or better value when getting 20-plus minutes, so he definitely has a risk-reward ratio that’s working in his favor. However, Eason’s field goal percentage can fluctuate and he is a non-factor in assists, so there are some extra considerations to take for managers looking to add value in those areas. Four games of Eason’s rebounds and steals production should make him an asset in those categories, while he could also add a trey per-game as a bonus. There aren’t any concerns for negative impacts on free throw percentage or turnovers, so Eason’s as likely to return positive results as negative for managers that need what he’s bringing to the table.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Knox (SF/PF, Pistons), Thad Young (PF/C, Raptors), Gary Harris (SG/SF, Magic), Trey Murphy III (SF/PF, Pelicans), Derrick White (PG/SG, Celtics), Coby White (PG/SG, Bulls), Patrick Williams (PF, Bulls), Immanuel Quickley (PG/SG, Knicks), Torrey Craig (SF/PF, Suns), Justise Winslow (SF/PF, Blazers), TJ McConnell (PG, Pacers), Jalen McDaniels (SF/PF, Hornets)
Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee) – Injured on April 23, 2022. Out indefinitely.
TJ Warren (left foot) – Injured on December 28, 2020. Expected return on December 2, 2022.
Yuta Watanabe (right hamstring) – Out for Sunday.
Dennis Smith Jr. (left ankle) – Injured on November 11, 2022. DNP on Friday.
Gordon Hayward (left shoulder) – Injured on November 2, 2022. Week-to-week.
LaMelo Ball (left ankle) – Injured on November 16, 2022. DNP on Friday.
Caris LeVert (left ankle) – Injured on November 18, 2022. Out for Sunday
Kevin Love (right hand) – Injured on November 18, 2022. DNP on Friday.
Cade Cunningham (left shin) – Injured on November 10, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Jae’Sean Tate (right ankle) – Injured on October 29, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Andrew Nembhard (left knee) – Injured on November 18, 2022. DNP on Friday.
Chris Duarte (left ankle) – Injured on November 4, 2022. To be re-evaluated in late November.
Luke Kennard (right calf) – Injured on November 14, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Kawhi Leonard (right ankle) – Injured November 17, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Paul George (right knee) – Injured on November 19, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Desmond Bane (toe) – Injured on November 12, 2022. Week-to-week.
Jimmy Butler (right knee) – Injured on November 17, 2022. Expected return on November 30, 2022.
Victor Oladipo (left knee) – Injured on October 17, 2022. Week-to-week.
Khris Middleton (left wrist) – Injured on September 23, 2022. Out for Sunday.
Cole Anthony (ribs) – Injured on October 26, 2022. Out indefinitely.
James Harden (right foot) – Injured on November 2, 2022. Week-to-week.
Joel Embiid (left foot) – Injured on November 20, 2022. Out for Sunday.
Tyrese Maxey (left knee) – Injured on November 18, 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 Saturday.
Damian Lillard (right calf) – Injured on November 19, 2022. Week-to-week.
Gary Payton II (abdomen) – Injured on July 15, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Jakob Poeltl (right quadriceps) – Injured on November 26, 2022. Day-to-day.
Jeremy Sochan (right quadriceps) – Injured on November 26, 2022. Day-to-day.
Josh Richardson (right ankle) – Injured on November 21, 2022. DNP on Saturday.
Keita Bates-Diop (left ankle) – Injured on November 26, 2022. DNP on Saturday.
Pascal Siakam (right groin) – Injured on November 4, 2022. Day-to-day.
Precious Achiuwa (right ankle) – Injured on November 9, 2022. Out indefinitely.
Scottie Barnes (left knee) – Injured on November 21, 2022. DNP on Saturday.
Mike Conley (left knee) – Injured on November 19, 2022. DNP on Saturday.
Delon Wright (right hamstring) – Injured on October 25, 2022. To be re-evaluated in mid-December.