• Readers, it’s time to buckle up. We’re back again for the sixteenth edition of The Week Ahead and getting closer to some big milestones. At the time of writing, we’re only four days away from the trade deadline. We’re about four weeks away from fantasy playoffs too, with some variability depending on when yours start. In between those two dates is the NBA All-Star Weekend and everybody’s already buzzing about that thanks to a star-studded list of snubs. Social media is going to be buzzing and my best advice to you as players’ and teams’ fortunes change is to follow the trends. Now is not the time to be holding out hope that your luxury stashes will turn their season around. Time is running out. Don’t know what to do in the wake of a trade that affects your roster? Look no further than the typical winners and losers takes that come in the wake of noteworthy moves and be sure that you’re not holding on too tight with anyone that’s on the bad side. Go after players that seem to be put in better positions since they’re the presumptive buy-low targets after the deadline passes. I hope you’re sensing that my theme for this week is not resting on your laurels and getting ready to make some moves. 

    To paraphrase Game of Thrones: change is coming. The Lakers have two All-Stars and no playoff seed, so you know that pressure is on for things to improve in Tinseltown. With Jarred Vanderbilt facing a long-term shutdown and no other reliable post options, it’s likely that they’re shopping for someone to make Anthony Davis’ life easier in the paint. Rumors indicate that they’re using D’Angelo Russell’s name as bait for any potential deal but point guard isn’t a position of strength for this franchise, so it’s logical to assume that any noteworthy ball-handlers acquired in exchange or in the wake of a deal involving Russell would be worth a flier while things shake out. Max Christie isn’t ready for that promotion yet but he is the only potential backcourt beneficiary on the team right now, so I’d certainly take a flier on him in deeper formats if the guard rotation gets shaken up and I believe it should be. Like the Lakers, I would also be shopping Russell right now, as he’s been producing at a top-50 rate or better for a while now thanks to a hot streak that may have already ended. Without clarity on a potential new home for the combo guard, I’d rather err on the side of caution and try to move him for another player around the top-50 while it still seems like a fair deal. Russell’s averages and categorical impact have been similar for his entire career across a variety of on-court roles, so even an opportunistic trade isn’t likely to see him sustain his current pace.

    The Grizzlies and Rockets did a bit of business this week and while it has almost literally no impact on this fantasy season, I want to use it as an opportunity to talk about one of them anyway. Does it matter that the Grizzlies traded a player that’s out for the season in Adams? Only if you note that there’s now a full-time opening as the team’s starting center. The Grizzlies have been filling that vacancy with a pair of part-timers in Santi Aldama and Xavier Tillman. That’s a matchup you’ve got to watch closely moving forward because they will surely be investing more in the development of one prospect or the other. Someone is officially due for a promotion now that there’s no clear better option in-house to get extra organizational investment. If forced to choose, I’d bet on Aldama, who may not be as good defensively as Tillman but has been far more consistent this year. Aldama’s advantage over dark horse competitor GG Jackson is that he can be a full-time center and spare Jaren Jackson Jr. from that responsibility as Adams was once meant to. Someone from this group figures to become a more central member of this team in short order and I believe at least one could become a late season stud. The Grizzlies play four games this week and I’m not too invested in the streaming value of those games — more on that later — but trends in the frontcourt rotation are going to feel more meaningful as we go forward. The pecking order could change if the Grizzlies become players at the trade deadline but the message remains the same: whoever excels next to Jackson in the post rotation will likely be the incumbent to that role moving forward and should have growth potential to close the year. Hold these players wherever reasonable and consider trading for them if the price is right.

    The Rockets acquired Adams in that deal and it only cost them Victor Oladipo; another player in street clothes and one with no future on the team. They’re not in great shape for fantasy value in Week 16 with only three games. It gets worse when you consider that they’re on a road trip and have an awful road record. That doesn’t matter to fantasy managers though. You’ve got a roster loaded with talent and several rotation players that are widely available on waiver wires. Two of those three games are a back-to-back as well. Jalen Green is putting up first round value through Week 15 and is unquestionably at peak sell-high levels right now. He and Alperen Sengun figure to be some of the best fantasy assets while they’re playing at current levels regardless of their one-game disadvantage versus the field. Their success may have been at Fred VanVleet’s expense though, so I’d treat the point guard as a buy-low target in hopes that his current managers might be focused on the slump and Amen Thompson’s recent surge. Thompson and fellow rookie Cam Whitmore are generating tons of buzz right now but unlike Whitmore, Thompson doesn’t yet have the juice to unseat his veteran positional rival. It’s hard to argue against Whitmore’s incredible production lately and he may force Ime Udoka to demote Dillon Brooks from the starting lineup if he keeps up these offensive explosions full of highlight plays. Regardless, a veteran like Brooks should prove to be a lock in the rotation and I’ll keep streaming him with confidence. I’ll probably be looking at all three of Brooks, Thompson and Whitmore for streaming purposes if not more for that Friday-Saturday back-to-back. With five games in the following fantasy week, you might want to consider holding them past that point.

    We’re at the point in the season when the Eastern Conference playoff race is taking shape and I’ve spent the past few weeks extolling the virtues of teams like the Cavs, Knicks and Sixers as they make their respective cases for the top spots. I tried to do the same for the Pacers in the wake of the Pascal Siakam trade but they haven’t held up their end of the bargain. Regular readers know that I stand ready to sing Aaron Nesmith’s praises at a moment’s notice but he shouldn’t be the most productive fantasy player on this team over the past two weeks. We can give a pass to Tyrese Haliburton, who is obviously playing hurt and said as much with his comments about the 65-game awards eligibility requirement this week. That’s probably true of Myles Turner as well but his substitute, Jalen Smith, has also been outranking Siakam lately. Lastly, Andrew Nembhard has been playing like he deserves a promotion since the Siakam trade and is an ideal handcuff to Haliburton while the Pacers manage their star’s health. However, it’s likely that standard league managers are casting aside Nembhard, Nesmith and Smith unless we get some news that their positional peers in Haliburton, Siakam or Turner respectively are going to miss time in a three-game week with all games spaced one day apart. Congratulations if you streamed those guys during their respective hot streaks but you and the Pacers may be learning the same lesson right now. Rostering those guys was the right move but you’ve got to rely on the starters to take you to the promised land. Despite making all the right moves, sometimes things don’t work out, as the Pacers have been learning lately. At least Siakam has his health and some very achievable room to grow. 

    Did last week’s Quick Adds work out? I’m not so sure. In fact, I’d like to plead the fifth. I know that none of them were knockouts and it’s clear that some were mostly disappointing. However, I can’t bring myself to condemn any of them. When opportunistic, I’d choose each of Caris LeVert, Kris Dunn, Malik Beasley, Saddiq Bey and Santi Aldama again regardless of their Week 15 results. I’d do it for the same reasons previously stated and with the same reservations. First and foremost: Dunn simply isn’t productive enough to be worth holding in most formats during a two-game week. He certainly isn’t on a hot streak anyway. Bey’s current left ankle issue is probably enough to give pause to standard league managers, who should send the Hawks forward to the wire and hope that his health returns for an upcoming Friday-Saturday back-to-back. Before injury, Bey was actually quite productive and should have proved useful to anyone that rostered him. Assume he will do so again once healthy but he’s only valuable in a few categories so prepare to cut ties if he proves otherwise. The Cavs have a strategically valuable mid-week back-to-back, so I know managers will go back to LeVert no matter what I say about him. However, the truth is that he’s trending down and the Cavs are nearly back to full strength. There will probably be better options with lower risk to your efficiency on Wednesday but LeVert may still have value over that stretch. Per usual, I find it impossible to predict Beasley’s hot streaks but I know I didn’t see one in Week 15. He’s got a Thursday-Friday back-to-back if you need one but there’s a reason why a season-long starter is typically available in most leagues, so I’ll continue to give a very conditional endorsement of the Bucks guard. Had he not laid an egg against the Warriors on Friday, I might have been more enthusiastically endorsing Aldama right now. By the time you read this he may have had a redeemer against the Celtics but they’re a tough task for anyone. Regardless, Aldama’s four-game week will only prove valuable to long-streamers that don’t mind each game being spaced a day apart and managers in deeper formats that likely won’t have him near the bottom of their rosters. I see no competitive advantage to keeping him in Week 16 if the Grizzlies forward-center currently occupies your streaming spot.

    We’ve all heard of a Sweet Sixteen before. Whether we’re talking about birthdays or college basketball, it’s a familiar term for many. I’d also submit that Week 16 is pretty sweet. It provides several easy paths to a seven day stream and there isn’t much of an argument against it with a back-weighted schedule and only one double-digit game day. Subscribers are going to get the most detail on the ins and outs of the schedule but it suffices to say that you can easily string back-to-backs together by making progressively easier moves on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That will leave one last move to use on the two games going on a very slow Sunday. Knowing that there’s only two games on the final day will also give managers some flexibility to make less efficient streaming decisions earlier in the week if they think a best player available approach may ultimately yield better results than stacking games. You’ll rarely hear me make that argument when discussing head-to-head leagues but it is absolutely possible that such a disparity in value could exist on waiver wires. Stringing games together during the week will be easy enough but it’s practically hopeless on a weekend that goes from 11 games on the first day to two on the second, so being economical with your early streaming moves can yield dividends later on. Subscribers are about to get the best details on how to do that.

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: Nuggets, Wolves, Blazers, Jazz

    Three Games: Celtics, Bulls, Pistons, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Knicks, Thunder, Magic, Suns, Spurs, Wizards

    Four Games: Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Cavs, Mavs, Warriors, Pelicans, Sixers, Kings, Raptors

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