Welcome back to The Week Ahead! Every Monday I’ll touch on some of the major storylines across the NBA and will take a brief look at what’s in store for the coming days. If you guys have any questions or just need some advice, be sure to follow me on Twitter!
4 games - Nets, 76ers, Rockets, Suns, Blazers, Raptors, Mavs, Spurs, Thunder, Warriors, Nuggets, Pelicans, Celtics
3 games - Pistons, Bucks, Hawks, Grizzlies, Clippers, Heat, Bulls, Wolves, Knicks, Hornets, Lakers, Kings, Pacers, Cavs
2 games - Magic, Wizards, Jazz
Things to look for:
Will Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg change his starting lineup?
I talked about this last week as well, but Hoiberg hinted once again that he is considering inserting Joakim Noah into the starting lineup, but he said that the plan is for Mirotic to start vs. the Pacers on Monday. Unfortunately, Hoiberg said that this could be a fluid situation all season, so Mirotic’s owners will have some concerns if he doesn’t find his form soon. He is averaging just 6.8 points, 5.8 boards, 1.2 assists and 0.8 3-pointers on 26.3 percent shooting over his last five games, but the most troubling stat is that he saw just 21.6 minutes per game over that span. I’d still much rather own Mirotic than Noah and I’m confident that he will turn things around soon.
Is Terrence Jones ready to live up to his potential?
No one can deny just how talented Jones is, but the biggest question for him is whether or not he can stay healthy over the course of a season. After recently returning from a lacerated eyelid, Jones has averaged 23.0 points, 6.5 boards, 3.5 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers over his last two games and the fact that he was able to log 42 minutes against the Mavericks on Saturday suggests that his conditioning is where it needs to be. Donatas Motiejunas (back) has no timetable and rookie Montrezl Harrell isn’t going to get it done for Houston, so expect the Rockets to heavily lean on Jones going forward. If he can stay healthy, he has the potential to flirt with early-round value and should be considered a must-start player.
Is it time to trade T.J. McConnell?
Absolutely. Kendall Marshall (knee) and Tony Wroten (knee) are very close to a return and we might even see them on the court in November, so McConnell’s clock is ticking. While the undrafted rookie has been solid, I just don’t see how he can stay relevant with those two guys back in the mix. McConnell has averages of 6.4 points, 6.8 assists, 5.2 boards and 1.0 steal over his last five, so it’s not a bad idea to float some offers around your league to see if you can get anything reasonable in return.
The Nets made “exploratory calls” last week?
General Manager Billy King confirmed that the Nets made some “exploratory” trade calls last week, but that’s not really surprising when you consider that they are just 1-9 this season. If I was an owner of Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young and Jarrett Jack, I’d be very concerned right now because those three players are by far the most attractive assets on the team. Joe Johnson and his massive salary will likely stay put, but he’s been awful anyways and really shouldn’t be owned in a lot of leagues. Without the promise of a first-round pick waiting for them at the end of the season, this is shaping up to be a miserable campaign for the Nets.
Kent Bazemore went down with a right ankle sprain on Sunday vs. the Jazz and he will be re-evaluated on Monday afternoon. It didn’t look good and he needed help to get to the locker room, so I’d be very surprised if he didn’t miss any action. If he does miss time, Thabo Sefolosha will have to step in the starting lineup while guys like Justin Holiday and Lamar Patterson will get another shot at some minutes.
Jeff Teague (ankle) wasn’t able to play on Sunday vs. the Jazz and even admitted that his ankle is “very sore.” The Hawks will be able to be patient with Teague because they have an excellent replacement in Dennis Schroder, and the young German should be considered a must-own player until Teague is able to return to the court.
Kyrie Irving (knee) was recently cleared for unrestricted weight-bearing activities, but he still hasn’t been given the green light to participate in on-court work. Once Irving ”builds up his legs to the point where they're equally strong, he'll receive the green light to begin practicing with the team." He will then have to make it through a full week of practice without any setbacks before he will be cleared to play, so it sounds like he has a great shot of making his debut sometime in December. Mo Williams will continue to hold to hold down the fort in his absence and his owners may want to think about selling high while they still can.
Chandler Parsons (knee) is hoping to play 20 minutes against the 76ers on Monday, and the good news is that there hasn’t been any swelling or pain in his knee. The Mavericks have handled him with kid gloves early on this season by limiting his minutes to the teens, but his playing time should slowly start to creep up and the fact that the Mavericks are off to a good start in the West certainly helps his outlook.
Klay Thompson popped up on the injury report due to a bad back and he was held out of Saturday’s game vs. Brooklyn. It’s possible that his back has had something to do with his slow start, but there hasn’t been any indication that it’s anything other than a minor issue. The Warriors are off to an 11-0 start, so don’t be surprised if they proceed with caution. Thompson’s next chance to play will be on Tuesday vs. the Raptors.
Trevor Ariza is battling a groin issue that he likely picked up in Saturday’s game vs. the Mavericks, and he is currently listed as questionable for Monday’s contest vs. the Celtics. Ariza did say that he expects to play, but if he doesn’t we should see a lot of Corey Brewer and Marcus Thornton.
Patrick Beverley (ankle) has already been ruled out of Monday’s game vs. Boston, and it’s not a good sign that the Rockets haven’t given him a timetable to return. As bad as Ty Lawson is playing, he should see heavy minutes once again on Monday with Jason Terry helping out off the bench.
George Hill (upper respiratory infection) has been ruled out of Monday’s game vs. the Bulls along with Rodney Stuckey (ankle), but both players are considered day-to-day. Monta Ellis will probably see minutes in the 40s Monday, but I’m desperately hoping that the Pacers will give rookie Joseph Young a shot at cracking the rotation.
Chris Paul revealed that he is still being hampered by his finger injury in addition to his groin strain, but the good news is that he will have a few days off to rest since the Clippers don’t play again until Thursday vs. the Warriors. If Paul misses this massive game, then I’ll start to worry. J.J. Redick is currently battling back spasms, so Jamal Crawford should continue to see an increased workload until the Clippers get some healthy bodies back.
Kobe Bryant was solid on Sunday with 17 points, eight boards and nine assists in 36 minutes, but he was feeling the effects of his heavy workload after the game. "I’m barely standing up. My back and my legs, [they're] killing me," he said. "I'm not looking forward to walking to the car. Seriously." To nobody’s surprise, the Lakers quickly ruled him out for Monday’s game vs. the Suns and won’t even make him travel with the team. Considering the Black Mamba is 37 years old with a lengthy injury history, it’s safe to assume that he will have many more maintenance days down the stretch.
Ricky Rubio (hamstring) returned to practice on Monday but the Wolves wouldn’t reveal his status for Tuesday’s game vs. Miami. Rubio has already missed four straight games, so it’s certainly possible that Zach LaVine will get another chance to start and he has been playing too well to continue to be ignored.
Kevin Durant said that his hamstring is feeling a lot better, but the Thunder have already ruled him out for their next two games. That means the earliest we will see him is on Friday vs. the Knicks, meaning Russell Westbrook is a good bet to have two more triple-doubles this week.
Victor Oladipo is still in the league’s concussion protocol and the Magic haven't put a timetable on his return, but it should be noted that the Magic are off until Wednesday’s game vs. the Wolves. Those of you with weekly lineups should probably be cautious and keep him on the bench, while Evan Fournier will continue to soak up the majority of minutes at shooting guard.
Robert Covington (knee) will return on Monday vs. the Mavericks in what will be just his second appearance of the season, but he will have a minutes restriction. As bad as Nik Stauskas has been, I’m confident that Covington will have a significant role once he gets his legs under him and any owner in need of 3-pointers should have already scooped him up if he was chilling on the waiver wire.
Markieff Morris sat out on Saturday against the Nuggets due a left knee sprain, and he is currently questionable to play vs. the Lakers on Monday. Teams usually tend to play it safe with knee injuries, but it’s a good sign that they haven’t already ruled him out which means that it’s likely a minor issue. Expect Jon Leuer to draw the start if Morris can’t go.
Darren Collison (hamstring) is expected to return on Wednesday vs. Atlanta, and he should be picked up everywhere if an impatient owner dropped him. Collision was playing fantastic before the injury and was even starting at shooting guard, so I can’t imagine how he doesn’t take the job back from guys like Ben McLemore and James Anderson.
Bradley Beal (shoulder) missed another practice on Monday and hasn’t played in the Wizards’ last two games, so his status is still up in the air for Tuesday’s game vs. Milwaukee. With just two games on the schedule this week, it’s safe to leave Beal on the bench in weekly formats.
Exciting matchups coming up:
Grizzlies vs. Thunder (Nov. 16)
Pacers vs. Bulls (Nov. 16)
Cavs vs. Pistons (Nov. 17)
Bucks vs. Wizards (Nov. 17)
Raptors vs. Warriors (Nov. 17)
Pelicans vs. Thunder (Nov. 18)
Warriors vs. Clippers (Nov. 19)
Bulls vs. Warriors (Nov. 20)
Hawks vs. Cavs (Nov. 21)
Grizzlies vs. Spurs (Nov. 21)
Raptors vs. Clippers (Nov. 22)