• Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead!

    Oftentimes, this section has been used for predictions or thoughts on recent news, but today it will be focused primarily on helping fantasy GMs gear up for the second-half of the season.  Here are five players that are primed for an elite second half and should be picked up or traded for if the opportunity arises:

    1. Robert Covington– The fantasy superstar is back to form after his rocky start to the season with the Blazers. Over the past month, he is averaging 10.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.2 blocks and 2.4 triples per game on 46.7-percent shooting in 13 games. Those numbers are good enough for top-15 value in 9-cat formats over that span, which proves that he should easily be a lock for top-40 value for the remainder of the season.  He should be a top trade target as some fantasy GMs might not have taken note of how impressive he has been over the past month.
    2. Jarrett Allen– The Cavs have handed the reins to the center position over to Allen as soon as they traded for him, which pushed Andre Drummond out the door. Allen might cost the most of anyone on this list, but his potential for top-20 value and constant double-doubles should make him worth the price.  He is averaging 15.3 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game on 65.7-percent shooting over his last 11 games.  Make sure Allen is on your trade radar.
    3. Anthony Edwards– The young phenom has come into play since D’Angelo Russell went down and Malik Beasley got suspended, but he has earned his role for the remainder of the season and could be one of the top options on offense as well. After a rugged start to the season, he has consistently put up late-round value over the past two months.  However, over his past four games he has played at a very high level and has looked like a lock for top-100 value if the shot attempts keep coming his way.  Over his last four games, he is averaging 25.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 3.0 triples per game on 43.7-percent shooting.  He is getting 21.8 shot attempts and 34.1 minutes per game in that span.  Keep Edwards on your trade radar or scoop him up if no one in your league has taken note of his rise.
    4. Kevin Porter Jr.- After a drama-filled beginning of the season for Porter Jr. with the Cavs, he has seemingly found a home where he will thrive with the Rockets. Over his last three games, Porter Jr. is averaging 17.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 triples per game on 39.6-percent shooting.  Although the efficiency numbers could use a boost, he is seeing an opportunity to produce with the Rockets so it could be worth taking a flier on Porter if he is available on the wire or in the trade market.
    5. PJ Washington– Washington has been the best fantasy player for the Hornets over the past month, but is rostered in fewer leagues than LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier. He has been let loose and is seeing 30.8 minutes per game over his last nine contests.  In that span, he is averaging 16.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 2.2 triples per game on 52.1-percent shooting.  Those numbers are good for top-20 value in 9-cat formats.  He should be be on the radar for trades as the deadline nears as the Hornets have found their consistent rotation and will ride with it for the remainder of the season.

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    5 games: Lakers

    4 games: 76ers, Bulls, Cavs, Celtics, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Kings, Knicks, Mavs, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, Pistons, Rockets, Spurs, Suns, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Wizards

    3 games: Bucks, Clippers, Hawks, Jazz, Magic, Pelicans, Raptors, Thunder, Wolves

    Best Schedule: Nuggets (Pacers, Hornets, Bulls, Pelicans)

    The Nuggets have four home games this week with no back-to-backs, so they have possibly the most ideal week that any team could have this season.  Their opponents are all competitive as they all have between 17 and 19 wins, but the Nuggets have 22 and could make it 26 with a solid week of basketball.  They currently sit as the 5th seed in the West and have the third-best offense in the conference behind the Jazz and Pelicans.  Keep Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Will Barton deployed in lineups for all formats.

    Worst Schedule: Wolves (at Lakers, at Suns, at Suns)

    The Wolves are playing a three-game week with all three games being on the road against the 2nd and 3rd seed in the West. The Wolves are locked in as the worst team in the West right now and should further sink themselves in that hole with another likely 0-3 week.  They are still desperately trying to find a frontcourt partner for Karl-Anthony Towns, but until that happens this organization is in disarray.  Regardless, keep Ricky Rubio, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and Jaylen Nowell locked into lineups.

    Game of the Week: Bucks at 76ers on Wednesday at 7 PM ET

    Two of the top-3 teams in the Eastern Conference will face off on Wednesday night in what should be a competitive matchup with a playoff-like feel.  Joel Embiid will miss this contest as he suffered a knee injury, but the 76ers are a deep enough team to remain competitive without him.  That does not mean they are still the same team that has the first seed right now, but they are still competitive enough to play playoff basketball.  The Bucks were off to a slow start to begin the season, but they are seemingly locked in to their regular season dominance once again.  Tune in on Wednesday night!

    Waiver Wire Watch

    Jaylen Nowell– This could be a short-term add as Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell will eventually return to action, but until then Jaylen Nowell will continue to dominate.  Over his last four games, he has put up top-70 value in 9-cat formats in 26.0 minutes of action.  In that span, he is averaging 16.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.5 triples per game on 53.3-percent shooting.  He has made the most of his opportunities over the past two weeks, but his role could dissipate once the starting guards return to action.  However, fantasy GMs could add him and enjoy his middle-round value for the time being.

    Kenyon Martin Jr.– Martin Jr. has played extremely well over his past three games and this could be a trend going forward as the Rockets do not have a sturdy rotation yet so many players will have their chance to earn minutes.  In his last three games, he is averaging 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks per game on 52.9-percent shooting. The returns of John Wall, Danuel House Jr. and Christian Wood could impact him, but the Rockets are thin on the wings and will be without Eric Gordon indefinitely and PJ Tucker is seeking a trade.  Give Martin a look on the wire as he could wind up being a top-100 value if he sees around 25 minutes per game for the remainder of the season.

    Dwight Howard- This is purely a speculative add that could pay dividends in the short-term for the next two or more weeks while Joel Embiid is sidelined.  He will likely see the bigger share of the minutes at the center position over Tony Bradley.  He was almost averaging a double-double in just 18 minutes per game over the last two weeks, so expect Howard to creep inside top-100 value until Embiid returns to action.  Grab Howard off the wire and reap the dividends while they last.

    Injury/COVID-19 Report

    Joel Embiid (knee) suffered a bone bruise in his knee and will be forced to miss at least two weeks.  This is actually a positive for the 76ers as the injury looked a lot worse than it turned out to be.  Dwight Howard and Tony Bradley will have to step up and man the position until Embiid returns.  This is a tough blow for Embiid who was one of the leading candidates to win the MVP award this season.

    Eric Gordon (groin) will miss the next 4-to-6 weeks after suffering a groin strain against the Kings on Thursday.  The Rockets remain in shambles as DeMarcus Cousins is gone, PJ Tucker is on the way out and Victor Oladipo clearly has no long-term commitment to the squad.  Kevin Porter Jr. could have a huge increase in production with Gordon out.

    Patrick Beverley (knee) will miss at least three games after suffering an injury against the Warriors on Thursday.  His next chance to play will be against the Hornets on Saturday.  Until then, expect Reggie Jackson to see a huge uptick in minutes.

    Here are the guys currently listed as day-to-day due to COVID-19 protocols:

    Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Pat McCaw, Hassan Whiteside, Cameron Johnson, Derrick Rose, Jordan McLaughlin, Jaden McDaniels, Marc Gasol, Dennis Smith Jr., R.J. Hampton, Romeo Langford

    Here are the guys currently listed as day-to-day due to injuries:

    Clint Capela, Kevin Durant, Taurean Prince, Kevin Love, James Johnson, Monte Morris, Gary Harris, Wayne Ellington, Danuel House Jr., Christian Wood, John Wall, Jeremy Lamb, Serge Ibaka, Kyle Kuzma, LeBron James, Alex Caruso, Bam Adebayo, Jarrett Culver, Elfrid Payton, Darius Bazley, Lugentz Dort, Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Cole Anthony, Jusuf Nurkic, DeMar DeRozan, Davis Bertans

    Check for updates on these guys throughout the week.

    Thanks for reading this week’s edition of The Week Ahead!

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