• Hello and welcome to another edition of The Week Ahead. It’s Week 19 and the NBA world at large is shifting its focus to the NBA Championship or the NBA Draft. Just like you and your fantasy squad, teams will judge themselves based on their playoff status. Did you make it? Kudos to you if so. We’re keeping it short and sweet now so you can focus on the bare essentials to make your team a playoff success. Depending on your league, the fantasy post-season either starts now or very soon.

    As I wrote last week, streaming would have yielded immense value in the Week 18 schedule. Aside from the fact that the schedule would have given most managers the roster space as well as the opportunity to efficiently stream for all seven days, there were also some incredibly productive players that were almost universally available last Monday. Look no further than Suns wing Royce O’Neale, who has practically been a first-round producer all week and is still available in the majority of leagues. Though not to the same degree as O’Neale, impressive efforts were also put forth by Caris LeVert, Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels respectively in Week 18. There have been points in each of their careers when each of the men named above has been unquestionably considered a standard league asset. For one reason or another, that memory has faded for some but it stands as evidence that these will be some of the safest picks on waiver wires if available. We’ve seen each get there and stay there before. In all four cases, they’re at a point in their careers and on their respective teams where it would make sense for them to do so. Somehow, each of them seem to be widely available and I wonder if managers might be tentative due to their up-and-down seasons. I’m treating them as some of the safest picks now and moving into the playoffs. Week 18 showed you why.

    Veterans didn’t get much love from me when we last checked in. I’d like to re-balance the scales this week. As a Raptors lifer, I’m obliged to show Kyle Lowry love whenever he comes up and also to be sure that he comes up in conversation. The veteran point guard is playing for Nick Nurse once again and looking pretty good in his Sixers threads. He’s not making the cut for this week’s best adds but old man Lowry is still producing some solid assists, steals and treys output that’s worth noting. He’s a newly-minted starter, so be sure that you’re not reading from the same script that we often had for Lowry as a member of the Heat. If I may be so bold, I’d also like to encourage you to tear up the script you’ve been given for Spencer Dinwiddie as a member of the Lakers. To be clear: it is a bold statement. The veteran combo guard is producing terrible numbers right now and I’m starting to see him appear on waiver wires. I’ll remind you that he profiles as the exact sort of guard that succeeds next to LeBron James and that the best seasons of his career came when he shared a backcourt with D’Angelo Russell. I can’t tell you that what he’s doing now is worth rostering but I can tell you that Dinwiddie is still getting acclimated to his new team and has historically been a very valuable points, treys and assists producer without ever being a featured scorer. Consider me one of the first in line for a pickup if he has even one good game this week.

    On the other side of the age range, we’ve got some pretty exciting rookies to talk about. Chet versus Wemby happened again on Thursday and it was everything we could have wanted. The French phenom continues to look like a very unbalanced video game character in every matchup and makes it easy to forget that Holmgren is almost as unique. Wembanyama may have won both the game and the individual matchup but the budding rivals were both some of the best producers around the league that night. In fact, they’re both within the top-10 for the week. Hindsight gives us an unfair advantage but it remains clear that the doubt expressed in their relatively low average draft positions was unwarranted. You absolutely have to spend a first round pick on both men in every season moving forward from now, even if you might have got one or both at the late second round or beyond.

    We don’t usually talk about the top players too much here. Aside from giving a tip of the cap to the week’s best, the focus is typically on the role players that are stepping up and providing achievable targets for improving your team. This whole piece culminates in some of the best or most underrated targets, as subscribers know. That’s the Quick Adds section. Last week’s Quick Adds were an odd bunch and I knew that much when I listed them. It was hard for me to set expectations for a group that I largely picked for schedule-specific streaming but if I had, at least some of them would have met the 12-team standard. Let’s get Reggie Jackson out of the way first: he’s not one of that group. Jackson stunk in Week 19 and you don’t need me to tell you that his production belongs on the wire. Luke Kennard never really got the chance to prove himself in Week 19 but Saturday’s game against the Blazers at least proved that he can mostly do the things I expected him to when not injured. I’ll circle back to him again at some point. Suns center Bol Bol had a bit of a dud this week but has at least remained in the rotation so I will probably talk myself into him again if another hot streak seems to be forming. It’s not right now, so send him back to the wire if you currently have Bol. I wouldn’t be so quick to do so with the last two: De’Andre Hunter and Tre Mann. Both have some scheduling advantages in Week 20 and the same things that caused me to recommend them last time remain true now. Hunter continues to score at a solid clip if not the boosted rate that was made possible by injuries to key Hawks players. I’m still holding for his four games in Week 20 in case he does turn it up. Mann has one fewer game than Hunter next week but is continuing to show his value as a counting stats and steals producer. With his minutes staying in the high twenties or low thirties, I would only be dropping Mann if I felt that I had to right now. 

    Every team has probably got to have at least one player on their cut list heading into Week 19, with the possible exception of those getting extra roster spots due to injuries. As with the previous week, there’s just so much streaming value in this protracted schedule. There isn’t a single double-digit game day on the slate for Week 19 and that means every lineup should have space on every day. This week doesn’t have many back-to-backs though. Will everyone in your league get their targets? Not if you’re all going for a seven day stream. Be sure to pick out some backup options because it’s likely that managers will be fighting for the same players at certain points in the schedule. Now is time to start using your free agent budget if that’s a feature in your league. As always, long-streamers will technically be at a disadvantage, but it may help that they’re less likely to be in a position to be fighting over the most valued assets and more likely to be getting their choice of players. Anyone who is starting Nets players all week is going to be in a good position since they’re the only five-game team. They’re also the clear-cut best option on Monday, so expect everyone of value to be gone quickly. On the other hand, four game teams like the Lakers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Thunder and Wizards have no back-to-backs and their available players will probably fly under the radar in your league due to their more limited streaming value. Those that don’t want to get into waiver claims wars may feel vindicated by adding from the four-game teams this week. Those that aren’t concerned shouldn’t worry about how many games a team plays in a week so long as they have two in a row, since they’re the only two you’ll need that player for anyway. More on that below.

    Schedule Breakdown

    Two Games: None

    Three Games: Celtics, Hornets, Mavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Pacers, Pelicans, Knicks, Suns, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz

    Four Games: Hawks, Bulls, Cavs, Rockets, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Wolves, Thunder, Magic, Sixers, Blazers, Kings, Wizards

    Five Games: Nets

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