• This edition of The Week Ahead starts with a confession: sometimes I feel like I focus too heavily on the two teams from Los Angeles. At least my conscience is clear for doing it this week. The Lakers are your first ever NBA Cup Champions and LeBron James is popping bottles once more in his storied career. Is it impressive that he’s still an MVP candidate two decades into this career? Sure, but this just feels correct.

    Speaking of MVP candidates, how about the reigning champ? Joel Embiid and the Sixers haven’t been trending since the Harden trade and that’s partially because they missed the Las Vegas portion of the In-Season Tournament. They dropped a pair of games while Embiid was sidelined due to illness but he came back in Week 7 to lead the Sixers to back-to-back wins. In those two games, Embiid posted a combined 88 points on 31-of-53 shooting with two treys, 27 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and five blocks while only missing four of his 28 free throw attempts. It’s obvious the Sixers have an advantage in the paint every night but if they continue getting elite production from the perimeter like they have from De’Anthony Melton and Tyrese Maxey this past week, this team will be difficult to stop. Kelly Oubre Jr. is a bit rusty after an extended injury absence and Tobias Harris is slumping, but turnarounds from both seem inevitable and that only adds to the aura of Nick Nurse’s high-performing squad. 

    Is there an aura around the Spurs and generational talent Victor Wembanyama? Perhaps. They stink so much it must give off some sort of energy. If they lose one more game, it will be a new franchise record but not the type that fans were hoping for when Wemby came to town. There are still bright spots for the Spurs in the form of their cherished rookie along with co-stars Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson and Zach Collins. However, Jeremy Sochan just failed his point guard test and got bumped from the starting lineup this past week. Rather than give that spot back to Tre Jones, who skillfully managed that position throughout the entirety of last season, Gregg Popovich made the perplexing decision to promote Cedi Osman to the top five. That has got to sting for those managers that are justifiably holding out hope that the younger Jones brother will return to his rightful spot at the helm. Popovich’s peculiar lineup decisions have made players like Osman, Charles Bassey, Doug McDermott and Julian Champagnie short-term deep league assets but have kept key members of the supporting cast like Jones and Sochan from realizing their potential. Regardless of the in-game outcomes, this team has rosterable talent throughout the rotation and fantasy managers that are able to keep a pulse on who Popovich favors from day to day could reap rewards for streaming the right players at the right time. 

    There are two teams on top of the Western Conference that are currently reaping the rewards of their aggressive roster management over the past few years and it’s fitting that we talk about them now because the schedule won’t have them top of mind in Week 8. The Thunder and Wolves are rolling right now, with the Wolves winning six straight contests and the Thunder posting a 7-3 record over their last 10 games. You’d think that newly-minted superstar Anthony Edwards was a big part of that effort for the Wolves but he hasn’t been nearly as important as the Twin Towers of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. Wasn’t last season’s lesson supposed to be that this experiment didn’t work? It turns out we shouldn’t have been so quick to judge. Ditto for anyone that thought Father Time could catch up with Mike Conley Jr. and keep him from being a reliable fantasy producer. On the other side of the aging curve, there’s the Thunder; a squad that is rapidly coalescing around Chet Holmgren and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as two-way superstars. That star duo ranks among the very best as fantasy players and in terms of on-court value, while they are supported by a cast of young talent that is arguably too deep. Jalen Williams leads that crew and is finally starting to post consistent results on par with his draft range, while Josh Giddey remains valuable but disappointing overall. GIddey’s struggles are less noteworthy because this team has such a strong cast of guards to pick up his slack. Some combination of Cason Wallace, Isaiah Joe and Lu Dort always stand ready for some extra reps, which means that fantasy managers should keep them in mind if they need streamers for guard stats. 

    There’s no doubt that Week 7 was headlined by the guards. Depending on your stance on turnovers, half or more of the players posting first round value in the past seven days were point guards. The usual suspects like Gilgeous-Alexander, Maxey, Luka Doncic and Tyrese Haliburton were there but that list also featured non-household names like Coby White and Derrick White. This represents a sell high moment for both Whites, although the one that plays for the Bulls has been a favorite in this series and seems destined for a massive usage boost as his team restructures. It’s entirely possible that Coby White becomes a second half superstar and it’s going to be hard for anyone to agree on what his value is after starting the season as a fringe standard league player before exploding to the top-12 range in recent days. It’s worth noting that he’s the only one in the top-12 that didn’t average at least one stock this week, so don’t sleep on high-impact categories like defense! It has earned countless millions for Gobert and White. Soon it will earn the same for impressive up-and-comers like Dereck Lively II and Herb Jones, who are both well within this week’s top-50.

    Last week, I recommended five players for Quick Adds. It was a wonky week and my options for truly value-added recommendations were limited but I think things turned out nicely. Alright, I’m being modest: I crushed it and so did you if you followed these recommendations! With the exception of Jarred Vanderbilt, every player was a clear standard league asset. Frankly, he stunk but that was lost in the NBA Cup buzz. Obi Toppin was an absolute stud this past week and cruised to early round value as a result. He was so much better than a streamer and has become one of the most sought-after adds as a result. Good luck getting him now. Grayson Allen and Josh Hart weren’t far behind either. Their status in the league is such that managers might not have started them for their second games of the week but if they did then those managers were rewarded with two games of production that worked out to top-75 overall when all was said and done. Lastly, Malik Beasley’s overall ranking outside the top-100 doesn’t account for the fact that his six treys on Tuesday were probably enough on their own to make this a win or draw for most managers. Thursday’s effort left us wanting more but that hot-and-cold experience is a Beasley trademark and we’ll still keep coming back to him when needed.

    Let’s shift focus away from the past and toward the future. We’re looking at a full seven day slate in the upcoming schedule. Normally that’s not noteworthy but a combination of holidays and special events have conspired to limit the schedule in recent weeks. Most lineups will be full on Monday and Saturday of Week 8 but the other days should offer enough flexibility for streamers to make value-added moves. It just so happens that both busy days are followed by the two weakest days of the weekly schedule, making Tuesday and Sunday’s games the high priority targets for streaming. Since most of the league is very well-rested after their respective two-game weeks, only a handful of teams aren’t playing four games in Week 8. That’s bad news for managers that are relying on players from the Lakers, Grizzlies, Wolves, Thunder, Magic or Raptors. There are still small pockets of streaming value for each of those teams but overall they are most likely to see their players appearing on waiver wires in the coming days as managers optimize their lineups according to the schedule. There should be a flurry of activity to start the week as there are nine teams that play three games in four days from Monday and another three that do the same from Tuesday, so even if your top option gets picked up, there should still be several passable backups. Those early plays should get teams through the first half of the week. By the weekend, it suffices to say that any team that plays on Sunday has value. Each of those squads will play twice after the 9-to-5 crowd has clocked out for the week. We’ll go into more detail on the intricacies of the schedule further below, so let’s wrap this up by saying that this is a great week to create lots of additional value by flipping one streaming spot multiple times and at the right time.

    Schedule Breakdown

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