Hey guys, welcome back to The Week Ahead! Every weekend I’ll touch on some of the major storylines across the NBA and will take a brief look at what’s in store during the coming days. Additionally, I’ll have a complete report on the latest injury news and rumors. If you guys have any questions or just need some advice, be sure to follow me on Twitter or just shoot me an email!
Week 17 Schedule: Games Played
3 Games: CHI, SAS, UTA, WAS
2 Games: ATL, BOS, BRK, CHA, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, IND, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOP, NY, OKC, ORL, PHI, PHX, POR, TOR
1 Game: HOU, SAC
With just three games on the schedule for the Bulls, Spurs, Jazz and Wizards, here are some players you should consider starting in weekly lineups:
Bobby Portis- Both Taj Gibson (foot, ankle) and Pau Gasol are a little banged up, but it’s possible that one of them is moved at the trade deadline if the Bulls decide to blow up their roster. The rookie is coming off a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double in 24 minutes and his role should start to grow now that the All-Star break is over. He’s still more of a stash, but Portis’ value is clearly on the rise. Keep in mind that Nikola Mirotic (hematoma) still has no timetable for a return.
E’Twaun Moore- He has been very impressive over his last five games, averaging 13.8 points, 3.8 boards, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.2 3-pointers on 50.0 percent shooting from the field. That’s good enough for top-85 value in standard leagues, so he’s a solid play with Jimmy Butler (knee) out for a few weeks.
Tim Duncan- By the time the Spurs play again, Duncan will have rested for over a week and should be rejuvenated for the unofficial second half of the season. He’s been disappointing during the new year, but look for him to pick up some momentum as the Spurs prepare him for what could be his last postseason push. At the worst, Duncan will likely play in at least two out of three games.
Danny Green- He has finally turned his season around and was hot coming into the All-Star break, averaging 12.4 points, 5.6 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.0 steals and 2.6 3-pointers in his last five outings. Green was a top-25 player in standard leagues last season, so he has too much upside to be sitting on any waiver wires.
Otto Porter- You don’t hear his name too often, but Porter is quietly having a top-50 season on a per-game basis. A couple of nagging injuries slowed him down before the break, but he should be ready to roll again and owns season averages of 12.3 points, 5.2 boards, 1.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 3-pointers per game.
Bradley Beal- He recently said that he expects his minutes to hover around 32 per game, so the Wizards seem like they’re ready to increase his workload again. Beal has top-50 upside when he’s in a rhythm, so he belongs in all lineups this week.
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On the other hand, here are the only players you must start despite having just one game on the schedule:
James Harden- He’s been the sixth best player in fantasy this season and has been flirting with triple-doubles on a nightly basis. No other explanation needed.
DeMarcus Cousins- Trade rumors aren’t going to bother him because they simply aren’t true. As long as Cousins stays healthy, he is going to post some scary numbers down the stretch.
Carmelo Anthony (knee) hints that he won’t shut down this season
Melo was shut down last season after undergoing knee surgery, and even though his knee is still giving him problems this season, he made it clear that he has no plans to shut it down and said that he wants to play in the Knicks’ remaining 27 games. "That's a goal. I'm going through it now. I'm pushing," Anthony said. "I'm still going to take it game-by-game, but my goal is to play all of them.” His owners might be slightly encouraged by this quote, but here’s why you should take this with a grain of salt. The Knicks are six losses behind the eighth seed in the East and are falling out of the playoff hunt, so it would be foolish of them to let him Melo keep risking his health in a lost season. I would sell him while you still can, but if not, his owners should be rooting for the Knicks to win as many games as possible so they can get back in the playoff hunt. (Source: New York Daily News)
What’s going on in Houston?
The Rockets have lost their last three games in a row and are now two losses behind the Jazz for the eighth seed in the West. "We're broken," Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "It's that simple. We're a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we're going to impact change. If we don't want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we'll go in a different direction. We can't continue to go out and play this way. It's easy to see it's a fragmented bunch. You can't win that way.” It’s clear that the Rockets need to make some changes at the trade deadline, so don’t be surprised to hear a lot of trade chatter surrounding guys like Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Ty Lawson and Trevor Ariza. (Source: ESPN)
Marc Gasol (broken foot) is out indefinitely
The Grizzlies’ playoff hopes took a massive hit when they learned that Gasol broke his foot, and one report suggested that he would be sidelined for 4-6 months. That will obviously end his season, so his owners in re-draft leagues should move on. So what’s next for Memphis? The good news is that Brandan Wright (knee surgery) is expected to be available after the All-Star break, so he is an excellent stash for any owner in need of a big man. When Wright was pressed into a larger role last season (in Phoenix), he averaged 10.6 points, 7.0 boards, 1.0 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.4 steals through five games in April. That’s a pretty small sample size, but his game translates very nice to fantasy.
Larry Sanders making a comeback to the NBA?
In a recent interview with Shams Charania of The Vertical, former Bucks player Larry Sanders expressed his desire to return to the NBA. "Once my art, music and passions off the court feel stable, I will look into coming back," Sanders said. "I still love basketball. I want stability around me, and part of my mindset to leave was not to put all my eggs in one basket. I feel highly valuable on any team. There aren't a lot of people who can bring my game to a team. I still play basketball all the time, staying in shape. I will need to make sure the situation is right for me.” I’d love to see Sanders back in the NBA, but unfortunately it doesn’t sound like it will be this season.
For any of you who missed it, on Sunday I posted a team-by-team look at what players might be moved at the Feb. 18 trade deadline. Click here to check it out!
Note: This report only includes players who have been updated in the past couple of weeks
Tiago Splitter is reportedly contemplating surgery on his hip, so he could be looking at an extended absence. Mike Muscala has been picking up most of Splitter’s minutes, but don’t be surprised if Walter Tavares gets another shot to crack the rotation.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (ankle) is still not close to making a return to the court. We will hopefully see him back on the court in March, but the Nets have every reason to be cautious. Joe Johnson is a buyout candidate, so RHJ is still a decent stash in deeper leagues if you’re eyeing steals.
Kelly Olynyk injured his shoulder prior to the All-Star break, but the team doesn’t believe it’s serious and is calling it a bruise for now. GM Danny Ainge said that he didn’t expect Olynyk to miss any time, but be on the lookout for an update on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was diagnosed with a torn labrum, and if he decides to proceed with surgery, then he would be done for the season. Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lamb and P.J. Hairston all benefit with this news.
Al Jefferson (knee surgery) has been doing non-contact drills since January and was hoping to play before the All-Star break, but that obviously didn’t happen. His return should be on the horizon, but his role will be limited right out of the gate. He hasn’t played well this season, so he’s not a must-own player.
Taj Gibson (foot, ankle) admitted that his left ankle has been acting up again, and that’s a concern because it’s the same one he had surgery on during the offseason. Nikola Mirotic (hematoma) is progressing and has started to work out, but he still has no timetable for a return. Bobby Portis needs to be stashed everywhere in the meantime, especially with the trade deadline coming up on Thursday.
Jimmy Butler (knee strain) is “unsure” of when he will be able to play again, but the Bulls gave him a timetable of 3-4 weeks. Hopefully he will be back on the court in early March, so he still needs to be owned in all leagues. E’Twaun Moore is worth a look in the meantime.
Kevin Love was diagnosed with a shoulder contusion prior to the All-Star break, but the Cavs downplayed the injury and Love already said that he won’t miss time.
Devin Harris (sprained toe) has missed the last nine games, but he is said to be targeting a return to the court after the All-Star break.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (groin) said he "for sure" will be back and playing right after the break, meaning he will likely be good to go for Friday’s game vs. the Wizards. Stanley Johnson will lose a lot of value, but he still has enough upside to warrant a hold in most leagues. KCP needs to be owned everywhere.
Festus Ezeli had arthroscopic surgery to clean debris from his left knee and he will be re-evaluated in six weeks. This means he would return to the court with just a couple of weeks left in the season, so he can be dropped everywhere. Marreese Speights will take his spot as the backup center.
Terrence Jones (concussion) is day-to-day, but he’s only worth keeping an eye on in the hope that he is traded out of Houston, making him a solid stash this week.
Sam Dekker (back) is still on track to begin full-contact practices in mid-February. The rookie has yet to play this season, and he won’t be in the rotation unless the Rockets make some deals at the deadline.
Rodney Stuckey (ankle) is not likely going to be ready to play right after the break. The Pacers will take their time with the veteran guard, so expect C.J. Miles and Joe Young to continue to pick up the slack.
Hassan Whiteside has been suspended for the Heat’s game on Feb. 19.
Chris Bosh sat out of the All-Star game due to a strained calf, but he said it was a precaution. Consider him day-to-day and expect an update when the Heat return to practice.
Greivis Vasquez (ankle surgery) said that he is targeting a return to the court in 3-4 weeks. He will be eased back into the rotation, but his role won’t be significant enough for most fantasy leagues.
Tyreke Evans underwent successful surgery on his right knee and is done for the season, meaning he can be dropped outside of dynasty leagues. Norris Cole, Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon (finger) will benefit. As for Gordon, he is progressing well and is hoping to return to action towards the end of February.
Tobias Harris (ankle) has missed the past three games, but the Magic were likely just being cautious to allow him some extra rest over the break. He is a candidate to be moved at the deadline, though.
DeMarre Carroll (knee) was seen taking jump shots earlier in the week, but no timetable has been set for his return. He should be relatively close, so he’s a great stash if you need 3-pointers, steals and boards.
Matchups of the week:
Bulls vs. Cavs (Feb. 18)
Clippers vs. Spurs (Feb. 18)
Nets vs. Knicks (Feb. 19)
Heat vs. Hawks (Feb. 19)
Raptors vs. Bulls (Feb. 19)
Warriors vs. Blazers (Feb. 19)
Celtics vs. Jazz (Feb. 19)
Warriors vs. Clippers (Feb. 20)
Cavs vs. Thunder (Feb. 21)
Jazz vs. Blazers (Feb. 21)