December 17, 2023, 4:55 pm
Hello and welcome to another edition of The Week Ahead. It’s the last slate of games before a brief holiday break and then on to some of the best matchups of the season: the Christmas Day games. Those technically take place on Week 10, so let’s just keep them in mind while we consider who’s on the naughty list and the nice list after a wild Week 8.
Let’s just dispense with the obvious: Draymond Green is on the naughty list. Santa is leaving coal in his stocking and deservedly so. I’m sorry if he is on your fantasy basketball team. Thankfully you aren’t forced to rely on him as much as the Warriors are. They’re already forced to scale down Andrew Wiggins’ minutes due to enduring poor play but it seems like one of their franchise icons is determined to crush any momentum they might be able to develop. The Warriors have a losing record as a result and aren’t giving Steph Curry the sort of winning environment he deserves and is still playing for.
A list of other players in the doghouse lately probably includes a pair of rising stars in Jalen Green and Paolo Banchero. The latter shot 8-of-34 this week and the former shot 14-of-38. That’s a recipe for disaster in head-to-head leagues. At least Green’s five turnovers over that three game period pales in comparison to Banchero’s unmistakably awful 13 turnovers in two games. At least Green is still making his free throws while Banchero continues to collect above average assists and boards. Ask managers that have either player if that was enough for them this week. It probably wasn’t.
There are unconfirmed reports that a professional basketball franchise may or may not be operating in the Detroit area. Rumors of a team called the Pistons persist but they never seem to show up for games and it seems like something akin to the Fyre Fest scandal may be happening at Little Caesars Arena. Fans are starting to organize and demand to know where their hard-earned money went, as any team whose top two fantasy producers over the past week were James Wiseman and Marvin Bagley III cannot possibly be operating in good faith. At least some of that money has got to be earmarked for Cade Cunningham, and he needs it; on some nights it looks like he couldn’t buy a bucket if he had a million dollars to spare. Can somebody please get this guy some help? Watching him try to use Bojan Bogdanovic to prop up an offense isn’t fun, even if I do like watching the old guy get buckets. If that was really working then the Pistons wouldn’t be on a 23-game losing streak.
Let’s not dwell on the negative too long. Instead, let’s focus on the positives; like how I continue to fail at not talking about California’s NBA teams on a weekly basis. Seriously, what am I supposed to do? Keegan Murray just set a franchise record for 3-pointers while setting a new career-best scoring mark. His Kings remain one of the most dangerous home court teams in the league and are in the thick of what’s shaping up to be a tough playoff hunt. Not to be outdone, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Paul George have finally figured it all out and combined to create a three-headed monster that is on a seven game winning streak. All three are putting up early round value but this past week has seen the Harden-Leonard duo skyrocket to the top-10. Remember when it was all doom and gloom with this crew? Let’s not be too quick to judge next time.
Some things we were right to pre-judge. Most fans and pundits predicted the Bucks, Celtics and Sixers would lead the Eastern Conference and everything we’ve seen so far suggests that will be true. The Celtics sit on top but their rivals are looming and the Sixers seem to have the most momentum heading into the New Year. Joel Embiid seems like the MVP frontrunner and his Sixers have won six straight. Over that period, he has scored no less than 34 points in a single game and has offered no less than 10 boards and two stocks as well. He often exceeded those totals. December has been his month and it would be truly surprising if this doesn’t eventually translate to Player of the Month honors for Embiid. If he is to have any competition, it’s most likely to come from Giannis Antetokounmpo. While my heart wants to include Derrick White, the reality is that the Celtics’ super role player simply can’t hold a candle to lines like Embiid and Antetokounmpo churn out. The Bucks superstar just posted a 64-point outing that somehow seemed most notable for the drama around what happened to the game ball after the final buzzer. Regardless, Antetokounmpo continues to be an unstoppable force and is now making his free throws. That’s a major change to his fantasy profile and one that could become a serious boon for fantasy managers if it endures.
Whether Coby White’s momentum continues into the New Year remains to be seen but the Bulls guard has more than earned his flowers. Readers will likely recall that White was the cover picture for the first edition of The Week Ahead this season and that I have listed him as an add consistently since last season. However, when I made White my first multi-time Quick Add player this season, I was still thinking of him as a streamer-level player. It’s abundantly clear that he is more than that now. We just need to be sure that he has the pathway to usage and minutes, which currently seems to be a function of Zach LaVine’s absence but that situation may become more fluid if White continues as a 20-5-5 producer with solid efficiency.
Naz Reid used to be a regular on my streaming lists too but there’s no telling if he returns to waiver wires any time soon. He most certainly isn’t but Reid has been playing like the Wolves’ best center lately. In reality, he’s a third-string center in that rotation but arguably worthy of a starting spot on a bunch of teams. Like White, he is putting up early round value lately. The hope is that he may eventually find himself in a similar situation to White and get the chance to make a more permanent transition to the ranks of must-adds and must-starts. Reid certainly holds those titles right now but his Wolves are leading the Western Conference and they’re primed to keep that star-studded lineup in his way. It seems inevitable that Reid falls back to Earth as a streamer-level player eventually, so sell high in redraft leagues if you can. Dynasty managers are probably too curious about what this means for the future to be interested in dealing him though.
My Week 8 Quick Adds were less than impressive but not in a way that I think we could learn much from. Dennis Smith Jr. simply didn’t play last week and that was only a partial surprise, as we acknowledged his back issues heading into the past weekend but it didn’t seem likely to limit his availability at the time. If you read his paragraph then you knew that Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale were also in consideration from the Nets and likely streamed them instead with passable results. Eric Gordon is usually my most reliable player on these lists but he only managed one game before succumbing to injury and that game wasn’t particularly good either. He counts as a short-term loss but nobody should hesitate to go back to Gordon in the future. However, Matisse Thybulle gives me pause. I stand by everything I said about his lockdown defense and burgeoning profile as a floor-spacer but I just didn’t see enough production in either of those areas to validate a standard league roster spot. Without that consistency, he is more likely to be a lost cause as a streamer even if the overall rankings still place him on the periphery of standard leagues and technically wouldn’t count this as a loss. What I wanted from Thybulle is what I got from Derrick Jones Jr., who reached the plateau of averaging a block, a steal and a trey per game for some super valuable production in the high impact categories. I’ll forgive the poor scoring and inconsistent rebounding as long as Jones keeps producing where it counts most. Rounding out our group is Sam Hauser. With another game still to go, the Celtics sniper has already connected on nine treys and added four steals as well. Further contributions in those areas would be a bonus but anyone who streamed him did so for one reason and one reason only. As long as Hauser is delivering enough volume in a high-impact category to swing a matchup, he counts as a winning streamer.
Streaming won’t be so easy in Week 9. It’s another condensed week that ends on Saturday, so the games are concentrated and that reduces opportunities for value-added moves from the wire. Half of the days on the schedule feature at least 10 games, so lots of teams will have full starting lineups. At least those that don’t will have lots of options to choose from on the busy days: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. The remaining three days on the schedule are sufficiently low-volume game days which will incentivize competition over limited player resources, but the problem is that managers will have to make multiple moves to cover these low-volume days. That churn may make it hard to plan and execute moves. At least there will be a bunch of options for managers to get three games in four days from their first streamer while they plan what’s next. Some may prefer to just take one or two players and long-stream for the week. I really couldn’t blame them for it. No matter how you go about making roster moves this week, remember that Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are where you’re most likely to see gains over your opponent. The best ways to work around those days come later in this article.
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