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 during the coming days. If you guys have any questions or just need some advice, be sure to follow me on Twitter!
Two games - Blazers, Bulls
Three games - Nets, Mavs, Nuggets, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Lakers, Heat, Pelicans, Thunder, Raptors, Jazz
Four games - Hawks, Celtics, Hornets, Cavs, Pistons, Clippers, Grizzlies, Wolves, Bucks, Knicks, Magic, 76ers, Suns, Spurs, Kings, Wizards
Things to look for this week:
Will Kevin Durant (hamstring) return this week?
Durant injured his hamstring on Nov. 10 against the Wizards and was given a timetable of 7-10 days, so I’d be seriously concerned if he didn’t suit up this week. Several recent reports indicated that Durant is making progress and head coach Billy Donovan even confirmed it as well. His injury was always considered minor, but Durant made it clear that he wouldn’t play unless he is 100 percent. Durant has been doing some full-court sprints along with some shooting and defensive drills, so I certainly think we could see back in action against the Jazz on Monday. The Thunder will have three games on the schedule this week.
Will Patrick Beverley start at point guard?
Since Ty Lawson was demoted to the bench he has been averaging just 3.3 points and 2.3 assists in less than 18 minutes per game, so it’s safe to say that he is in the doghouse. Jason Terry has started the last three games and hasn’t been much better, averaging 6.0 points, 1.7 assists and 1.1 3-pointers while shooting 36.8 percent from the field. Patrick Beverley’s ankle has been progressing well and he is expected to return to practice on Monday, so it sounds like he should be cleared in time for Wednesday’s game vs. the Grizzlies. Beverley averaged 10.0 points, 4.2 boards, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.0 3-pointers per game as a starter last season, and he would be a massive upgrade on the defensive end over Lawson and Terry. If you have a roster spot open you may want to stash him to see how this situation plays out.
Will the Warriors lose this week?
The Warriors tied the NBA record for the most wins to start the season after improving to 15-0 with a win over the Nuggets on Sunday, and next they will face a Lakers’ team on Tuesday that has managed to win just two games this season. The Warriors will then travel to Phoenix for a game against the Suns on Friday, and then they will return home to face the Kings on Saturday. Their three opponents this week will have a combined record of 14-26, so I fully expect the Warriors to improve to 18-0 on the season. This team is destined for special things.
By this point you have probably heard me and my colleagues bash Magic head coach Scott Skiles for his sporadic rotations, but you have to wonder what the guy is thinking after he benched both Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic down the stretch of the Magic’s last two games. Skiles has a history of keeping players on a short leash and it seems like the only safe player right now is Evan Fournier. Vucevic and Oladipo are easily the best players on the team and are the future of the Magic, yet Skiles has leaned on guys such as Andrew Nicholson and Channing Frye recently. I’d be pretty concerned if I was the general manager and I saw my two best players on the bench when it mattered the most, but Rob Hennigan had to know what he was getting into when he hired Skiles. I fully expect Vucevic and Oladipo to bounce back vs. the Cavaliers on Monday, but I would bet that this won’t be the last controversy involving Skiles this season.
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Kent Bazemore (ankle) said that he is taking it “day by day” in regards to his recovery after missing the last three games, but he was spotted getting in some work prior to Saturday’s game vs. the Cavs and appears to be close to a return. With the Hawks back in action on Tuesday vs. the Celtics, I would guess that there is a good chance that he will be able to play in that contest and he shouldn’t be sitting on many waiver wires.
Marcus Smart (leg) will be sidelined for at least the next two weeks because of a "subluxation of the proximal tibfib joint,” but head coach Brad Stevens implied that his recovery could extend beyond that timeline as well. Unless you can stash him in an IR spot, it will be hard to justify wasting a roster spot on him in standard leagues. Avery Bradley will start alongside Isaiah Thomas and they will both see a heavy workload, while Evan Turner will see an uptick in minutes off the bench.
Derrick Rose (ankle) was a full participant during Sunday’s practice and the Bulls are scheduled to re-evaluate him on Monday, but it sounds like he is on track to play against the Blazers on Tuesday. Rose doesn’t usually play when he isn’t 100 percent, so this is a good sign that his ankle is making progress. His potential return would send Kirk Hinrich back to the bench.
Mo Williams is dealing with posterior right ankle inflammation and is listed as doubtful for Monday’s game vs. the Magic. The Cavaliers got off to a strong start to the season and are in a position to where they can be cautious with their players, so don’t expect to see Williams on Monday. Matthew Dellavedova is set to make another start at point guard.
Timofey Mozgov will be sidelined for a couple weeks due to a strained right deltoid, leaving the door wide open for Tristan Thompson to see heavy minutes in the coming weeks. Thompson scored nine points with 16 boards, five assists and two blocks in Saturday’s win over the Hawks while starting in place of Mozgov.
Kenneth Faried missed Sunday’s game against the Warriors due to a sprained ankle and a sore back, but the Denver Post is reporting that he is day-to-day. The Nuggets will take on the Clippers on Tuesday, so the Manimal should be considered questionable for that contest. Nikola Jokic and Darrell Arthur will benefit if Faried can’t give it a go.
C.J. Miles rolled his ankle in practice on Sunday and is listed as day-to-day, while George Hill (illness) is also listed as day-to-day despite missing the last three games. The Pacers are off until Tuesday vs. the Wizards, so hopefully they will both be good to go for that contest.
Zach Randolph (knee) was a game-time decision for the past two games, but he wasn’t able to play in either of them because he complained of soreness. His injury isn’t serious and he has had a few days to rest, so his chances of playing against the Mavs on Tuesday should be pretty good.
Nemanja Bjelica (knee contusion) hasn’t practiced since he was ruled out of Friday’s game vs. the Pistons, and he is currently considered “questionable at best” to play vs. the 76ers on Monday. Look for Adreian Payne and Shabazz Muhammad to absorb some of his minutes if he can’t play.
Tyreke Evans (knee surgery) is expected to make his season debut as early as this week, so there is no reason for him to be on the waiver wire in any league. His minutes will likely be limited to the 20s in the early going, but he should be able to have some excellent fantasy value in coach Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo system if his knee responds well over the coming weeks.
LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) is currently day-to-day after he was held out of Saturday’s game vs. the Grizzlies, and he is considered questionable for Monday’s game vs. the Suns. Don’t be surprised if the Spurs are cautious if Aldridge isn’t feeling 100 percent, and expect David West to draw another start if they decide to hold him out.
Rudy Gay is listed as day-to-day with a left shoulder strain, but his status for Monday’s game vs. the Hornets is up in the air. The Kings went small with a three-guard lineup vs. the Magic on Saturday, but Omri Casspi played 32 minutes off the bench and will benefit the most if Gay misses more time.
Jonas Valanciunas (hand) is expected to miss the next six weeks of action, so his owners will have to decide if they are in a strong enough position to stash him or not. However, if you have an IR spot then it’s an easy decision. Bismack Biyombo started on Sunday and scored six points with 14 boards, so he’s worth a look for owners in need of boards and blocks.
Exciting Matchups to look for:
Knicks vs. Heat (Nov. 23)
Thunder vs. Jazz (Nov. 23)
Celtics vs. Hawks (Nov. 24)
Pacers vs. Wizards (Nov. 24)
Lakers vs. Warriors (Nov. 24)
Cavs vs. Raptors (Nov. 25)
Grizzlies vs. Rockets (Nov. 25)
Spurs vs. Mavericks (Nov. 25)
Pistons vs. Thunder (Nov. 27)
Raptors vs. Wizards (Nov. 28)
Hawks vs. Spurs (Nov. 28)
Bucks vs. Hornets (Nov. 29)