• Hello and welcome to another edition of The Week Ahead. This time, let’s call it The Weeks Ahead. After all, All-Star Weekend is coming up and that means a protracted two-week schedule. For me, that means I get next weekend off. For you, that means you’ve got to prepare for basketball on eight of the next 14 days. That means it’s mathematically possible for managers with four weekly moves to cover every day with efficient streaming but it will be extra hard with that eighth day factored in. Whether you will need to is another question altogether, as fewer game days means heavier scheduling. Though there will be tons of glitz and glam to get your attention during the downtime, the reality is that the next two weeks will probably test your patience as a manager on the edge of fantasy playoffs. The NBA trade deadline may have just passed but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep trying to improve your squad. Week 17 is one of your last non-playoff weeks and it features several unfriendly streaming days, so take some chances during the upcoming stretch that might yield dividends later.

    There’s no later for NBA teams now. The time for major changes has come and gone now. It wasn’t the most impressive trade deadline in history but some important players changed teams and the fantasy landscape certainly shifted. There were too many trades to individually detail, so let’s focus on just a few of them in the next few paragraphs. Let’s start with a Knicks front office that just can’t miss lately. After recent arrivals OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa have already proven their worth, the Knicks have now brought Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic to town. Given that the team is currently missing their starting center, All-Star power forward and their recently-acquired All-NBA defender, it’s truly impressive that there’s still an air of positivity around this team. Let that positivity inspire you to take chances on any Knicks rotation players near the top of your wire right now because they’re all hooping and there’s clearly some extra touches to go around thanks to a mostly-injured starting lineup. In particular, Bogdanovic is in a perfect position to sustain his Pistons production and Burks has already had some of the best seasons of his career as a Knick. Start them or stream them where you can! Jalen Brunson needs some help.

    Brunson’s old team made some pretty sweet moves too. Ultimately, I think the Mavs may have done the most to improve their chances in the playoffs with separate moves for Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington. Do I expect anything to change for those men in particular? Gafford is a pick-and-roll big with mobility and an ability to catch lobs, so if anything, his production could be better in a dynamic Mavs offense. Washington is used to being a tertiary option in a wing-dominant lineup with two shot creators taking most of the heat. Like Gafford, he should also thrive in the space created by the Mavs stars and will surely benefit from their passing, so it suffices to say that I think this change of address works for both men. It’s more likely that others in the Mavs lineup feel the pressure after this move. Dereck Lively II may seem to be the biggest loser but the rookie remains an important figure in the franchise’s long-term plans and has proven at various points in the season that he can still thrive as a defensive specialist with less playing time. However, I’m much less bullish on Derrick Jones and Maxi Kleber. The latter remains a starter but is simply not good enough to keep that spot over Gafford, Washington or even Lively for long. Without 30-plus minutes, there’s little hope of Kleber continuing as the standard league asset he has proven to be over the past week or so. Similarly, Jones may have already peaked in value for a team that can now replace what he does best with a younger and more capable option in Washington. At least their former teammate Richaun Holmes will get a chance to regain some career momentum as one of the only centers on a lowly Washington team that can afford to give minutes to just about anyone right now. 

    The Lakers couldn’t afford to make a deal on deadline day but they got their guy anyway. With thanks to the Raptors and Masai Ujiri’s shift to money-saving moves, Spencer Dinwiddie was acquired and then bought out. That allowed the Lakers to avoid some heat for barely even appearing in rumors at the deadline and defeated the accusation that they weren’t making any moves. However, nothing really changes on the scouting report after this acquisition. D’Angelo Russell is still in town and nobody is taking shots away from the Lakers’ superstar duo. The offense will get a little stronger and the defense will be as bad or worse with Dinwiddie out there. Those shot opportunities are only getting to Dinwiddie after at least three other guys pass on them. What makes him a valuable addition to this squad and worth a flier if available in your league is the likelihood that one or more of those tenured Lakers won’t be around all the time. Dinwiddie has proven able to thrive as a sixth man that can carry the offense while the stars rest and the Lakers have an annoying habit of seemingly always listing their best guys as game-time decisions. If and when Anthony Davis, LeBron James or Russell miss time, Dinwiddie seems like a logical candidate to get a big usage boost along with Austin Reaves. That’s why I like adding him in most formats as a handcuff for the aforementioned players. At worst, you’re probably still getting average-ish value in points, treys, assists and free throw percentage.

    In fantasy basketball, somebody talking about guard stats is probably referring to a combination of points, treys, assists, steals and free throw percentage. They might also be talking about the appeal of the new-look Sixers now that Joel Embiid’s MVP campaign has officially collapsed due to injury. It’s Tyrese Maxey’s team for now and that means run-and-gun offense. To that end, the Sixers have now acquired some extra shooters in Buddy Hield, Kyle Lowry and Cam Payne. Hield is unquestionably one of the league’s best active shooters and faces only Kelly Oubre as opposition for the title of the team’s best wing, so things are really looking up for managers that have Hield rostered. He will need to join Maxey and Tobias Harris as one of the featured scorers on the team. Whether Hield shakes out as third or fourth in that order versus Oubre is irrelevant: he should get 10-plus shots per game and that number probably won’t be affected much by De’Anthony Melton’s anticipated return. Look at their best healthy players: it’s definitely going to be a perimeter-oriented attack for the Sixers without their star big man in uniform because understudy Paul Reed is an incredible player in his own right but his career-high scoring mark is four points less than Embiid’s season average, so there won’t be much of a post presence. A very mobile defense and rebounding specialist like Reed should thrive in this style. So too would the remaining post options (when healthy): Nic Batum, Mo Bamba and Robert Covington. They’re ranked in order of preference right now but each is adapted to playing in space, so deeper league managers should stream them with confidence when they seem to have Nick Nurse’s favor. The Sixers play on 5-of-8 possible days in Week 17, so keep an eye on this squad if you need guard stats.

    The Raptors traded two point guards and waived another recently. Thus began a familiar refrain: the Raptors are too forward-heavy and lack backcourt depth. We’ve been here before. This was the story of previous Raptors seasons. One lesson learned over that time was that Gary Trent Jr. is a secure rest-of-season hold when he has a featured role on the team. He is quite literally the last man standing at shooting guard and was already starting there anyway. If you adjust for games in which he’s played 24-plus minutes, Trent has been steadily providing value with concentrated production in points, treys and steals. Immanuel Quickley is the closest thing to a true point guard left in town — and must be rostered everywhere as a result — but at least he can be supported in small doses by Trent and Bruce Brown. Managers should find that they’re routinely looking at these three men as the only possible value-added players in the Raptors backcourt for the rest of the season. Though the ball will still pass through Scottie Barnes’ hands more than anyone else’s, somebody will have to occupy those guard spots and there’s only a few that are truly qualified. Apologies to newly-acquired Ochai Agbaji but he’s just not ready. Keep an eye on the three aforementioned Raptors for what I expect to be sustained if not boosted rest of season value. 

    Trent was one of the Quick Adds listed in last week’s article so it’s fitting that we take this chance to review those recommendations. I’ll focus the scope on the Raptors guard’s past seven days and admit that it really wasn’t his best week. However, readers will note that in this piece and my last one, I’ve specifically noted that Trent is only valuable in a few areas. Eight steals and treys each means he delivered at least some value. I expect better in the future, so go back to him when you can. We also touched on Paul Reed earlier. He provided 34 boards and eight stocks in Week 16 while cementing his place as the starting center sans Embiid, so you’ve got to keep rostering him. Before I continue taking victory laps on last week’s picks, I’ll admit that one of them — Lonnie Walker — completely disappeared and provided no value between injuries and limited playing time.

    With that out of the way, I’ll circle back to Ausar Thompson and Josh Green, who round out that group of five. Both were unqualified successes in Week 16 but one is probably going to prove to be a rest-of-season hold after the trade deadline and the other may fade a bit. Green remains a likely starter for the Mavs on a nightly basis but may slide further back in the pecking order with the new additions to the team, so unless his value becomes increasingly focused in high impact areas like steals and treys, Green may become more of a deep league streamer. On the other hand, the rookie Thompson stepped up his production in the same week that his team cleared out some major positional rivals in Bogdanovic, Burks and the recently waived Killian Hayes. That’s three fewer players to stand in the way of one of the league’s most promising two-way playmakers. Get Thompson if you still can.

    It’s going to be really easy to break down the upcoming schedule. I’m prepared to argue that less than half of all game days provide value-added streaming opportunities. Monday and Wednesday of the first week are double-digit game days, while Thursday, Friday and Sunday of the second week are the same. Many fantasy squads will have little to no use for streaming on those days aside from injuries or opportunistic adds. Players from the Bucks, Wolves and Blazers are going to be very popular adds early on. The Wolves retain that position for the second half of the schedule as well and are joined by the Magic as the most likely teams being targeted on waiver wires. Long streamers will be happy to know that half the league plays on 5-of-8 possible days and three of them cover two of the three low volume game days. That same crowd will be especially happy to know that the Warriors play an incredible six games in Week 17. In fact, the long streamers are probably going to be in their element over the upcoming stretch of games. The most advisable strategy is to take the best player available whenever opportunistic because covering all eight days with streamers is both difficult and likely unnecessary in most cases. Now is the best time to stash or take a flier on a player. Your starting lineup will be full on most days anyway. You might not use all four of your weekly moves. It’s time to take one last chance on someone before tightening your belt for what will hopefully be a deep playoff run.

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: None

    Three Games: Heat

    Four Games: Hawks, Celtics, Nets, Bulls, Mavs, Pistons, Pacers, Grizzlies, Knicks, Thunder, Blazers, Kings, Raptors

    Five Games: Hornets, Cavs, Nuggets, Rockets, Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, Wolves, Pelicans, Magic, Sixers, Suns, Spurs, Jazz, Wizards

    Six Games: Warriors

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