November 19, 2023, 7:50 pm
Readers, it’s my pleasure to welcome you to another edition of The Week Ahead. I hope your eyes are recovering well from having to see some of those In-Season Tournament courts in high definition for several hours. Some of those red courts had me wishing for a black and white television. You know, the sort of technology that was around when LeBron James was born.
How about those Lakers? They’re the first team to three wins on the road to the NBA Cup and they’re being carried on a nightly basis by the ageless King James. Listen, they’re not where they want to be in the overall standings right now but that’s no fault of The King’s and I’m definitely considering him as a contender on my non-existent MVP ballot. If Anthony Davis bounces back from what has more-or-less been a two-week slump, this Lakers squad could rise in the standings quickly. Being the inaugural NBA Cup Champions would put some wind in their sails but the Lakers will first have to figure out what’s going on with Austin Reaves this season. He and D’Angelo Russell are supposed to make life easier for the stars but only Russell has been consistent on that front this season. Reaves just got demoted from the starting lineup and the fantasy managers that used a mid-round pick on him are probably getting pretty anxious right now. I’m calling it a slump. Check in with managers of Davis or Reaves to see if they’re panicking right now. The best time to trade for a player is when the market cools on them and I can assure you that the Lakers aren’t spending tens of millions on these two to warm the bench.
Speaking of warming the bench and Los Angeles, I’ll continue my growing tradition of spending time on the Clippers every week. This time, it’s to note that Russell Westbrook voluntarily went to the bench to help the Harden experiment work. Well, they’ve managed to pull off a win in the most dramatic fashion: a Harden step-back trey with a bonus free throw to sink his former team, the Rockets. We got 20-plus points each from the Clippers’ Big Three in that game and this may be the start of the new normal for Los Angeles’ other team. Unfortunately, the team looked better in a game that saw less than 20 minutes from Westbrook. That means we’re fading his fantasy value hard until proven otherwise. Bones Hyland’s pending return from injury along with quality play from both Norman Powell and Terance Mann is likely to lead to a four-way battle for playing time. Overall, these four are probably just going to cannibalize each other’s value as a result of this competition. Unlike the others, Westbrook isn’t widely available. He’s in that weird zone between streamer and hold, which is never a fun place to be.
Let’s stay in California and have a look at the Warriors. No, I don’t want to talk about Draymond Green collaring Rudy Gobert. We all saw the video. What I do want to talk about is something that has been a pretty common theme in the early season: what’s up with Andrew Wiggins? There haven’t been many redeeming qualities to his stat lines this year but that all changed with 31 points, five treys and two stocks in a loss to the Thunder on Saturday. For those still holding out hope of a return to his top-100 status from previous seasons: this is your moment. It’s also probably a good moment for the others to check and see if Wiggins is available on your waiver wire. I’m not putting him on the Quick Adds but a multi-game suspension for Green and a breakout performance represents a great opportunity for sustainable positive change. Golden State is definitely looking for somebody to understudy a struggling Klay Thompson as the second Splash Brother, so Wiggins’ five-trey night could inspire Steve Kerr to run more actions for him on the perimeter. I’m going to sound irrational if I spend too much time on Thompson so I’ll just say this about his struggles: even the best shooters have slumps. Doubt him at your own risk. I’m hoping the negative buzz brings his value down enough for some advantageous trades. Thompson is still a premier specialist with a starting role on a veteran team with elite playmakers and legitimate playoff aspirations, so trading for him isn’t the risk it might seem to be right now.
Some risks are more worth it than others. A great example of this can be seen in the plummeting rostership rates of Gordon Hayward. Though the timelines don’t exactly intersect, Hayward has been struggling over the last four games and the Hornets have now thrown Miles Bridges back into the mix. He outscored Hayward’s four-game total in a single game. If you read this column in previous weeks, you know that I’ve been going to bat for Hayward and recommending him as a premium target in any league. That’s over now. Despite hanging around the top-100 in the rankings, Hayward doesn’t seem likely to consistently return standard league value anymore. The time to sell high has already passed but it might still be possible to trade him. Managers in competitive leagues are probably just going to have to cut him loose. Ditto for Killian Hayes, who is now competing with Marcus Sasser for the honor of being Jaden Ivey’s eventual backup at point guard. Hayes remains with the starters but the minutes aren’t skewing in his favor anymore and he’s almost even with Ivey in value lately. Throw the steady Alec Burks into the mix and Monty Williams has enough options at point guard to bring Hayes’ minutes down without disrupting the team. Ivey as the starter feels inevitable and his current status as a reserve might be more indicative of him being in Williams’ doghouse than anything else. After setting a season-high in playing time on Friday, that might be changing. Time to kick the tires on a Hayes trade if you ask me. The Pistons have an awful schedule in Week Five, so we’re fading Hayes one way or the other.
Before we get into the minutiae of the Week Five schedule, we’ve got to review the Quick Adds from last week to see how trustworthy I am. You better believe I am doing victory laps on my Kevin Huerter call from the Week Four piece. Red Velvet was available in tons of leagues and he was looking pretty rusty to start the season but if you caught last week’s article and picked him up, you were rewarded with top-25 value thanks to above-average points with elite field goal percentage, steals and treys production. Like I said last week: he shouldn’t be a streamer and he won’t be if this continues. Same for Tim Hardaway Jr., despite his comparably worse overall value. The second generation pro has posted 65 points so far this week and will surely add to that total with Sunday’s game against Huerter and the Kings. Add 14 treys and only three turnovers over that period and you’ve got a top-tier guard stats streamer.
I’m less bullish on my other three recommendations: Coby White, Moritz Wagner and Rui Hachimura. White had all of the playing time and a fraction of the production that was promised, though he was solid against the Heat in his most recent performance. Mirroring him is Hachimura, who started very strong with 23 points and three treys on 8-of-10 shooting versus the Grizzlies but followed it up with a pair of duds against the Kings and Blazers, respectively. Perhaps he will recover on Sunday against the Rockets but at present, this was a miss. Wagner wasn’t strictly a miss but I definitely got it wrong when I told readers to go with him over Goga Bitadze. I just didn’t trust Bitadze to be so consistent for so long and I’m not sure that has changed but it’s clear that the big Georgian was better than the big German last week.
That’s enough reflection for now. Let’s look ahead. It’s in the title of the series, after all. For the second time in three weeks, the league is on a condensed schedule with American Thanksgiving set for Thursday. Yes, I said American Thanksgiving. Mine happens in October up in Canada and there also wasn’t any basketball that day, but I digress. The rest day allowed the league to squeeze a bunch of games on to the schedule for Wednesday and Friday, which are the only two double-digit game days of the week. They’re also effectively back-to-backs for teams that play on both nights. It’s not hard to argue that there are value-added streaming opportunities on every single day of the week and managers should prepare to make a string of moves in order to get the most value out of their streamers. There’s even some value in a few of the two game teams — the Mavs and Thunder — if you get them at the right time. However, with half the league playing four games in six possible days there will be tons of options for the long-streamers out there that just want to get the best players available and hold them. No matter which path you choose, it’s all about getting as many games out of a single move as possible, with two games in three days being the benchmark for added value. The best shots at getting multiple games out of a single move all come in the first half of the week, so there’s no harm in using up all your moves before the weekend. There are eight teams that are essentially playing back-to-back-to-back games this week and you’ll want to get in on that as much as possible. Find out more about that further below.
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